Property taxes are one of the principal means that cities and municipalities use to raise revenue. Property taxes are generally based on two things: the value of the property itself, and the local rate of taxation. Both of these values can fluctuate depending on several different factors, including voter approved tax increases, city or state efforts to raise taxation, and the relative health of the real estate market.
How are Property Values Assessed?
The value of a property is usually “assessed” by a professional property assessor. His evaluation of the property sets the corresponding value of the property, and allows for the determination of the total amount of property taxes that are due.
However, depending on when this process was conducted and subsequent changes in the market, the actual value of the property in comparison to the last assessment may not match. For this reason, the process of property taxes appeals can provide significant legal reductions in the total amount of money owed by any given property owner.
Traditionally, the municipality sends out tax notices at the beginning of each year notifying property owners what the amount of their new taxes will be. Due to the recent economic crisis, cities and municipalities across the nation have increased the amount of property taxes they are collecting in order to bolster their shrinking revenue.
This means that many homeowners are currently paying far more in property taxes than they technically owe. Because of the nature of the government’s collection methods, it is the responsibility of the homeowner to verify that he is not being taxed more than his fair share.
Property Tax Appeals Process
To appeal property taxes, a homeowner should hire a professional assessor to survey the property. Each state and county has its own particular assessment methodology: when hiring the assessor, it is in the best interest of the homeowner to ask if that particular assessor subscribes to the methodology used by the city.
This will save time not only in the preparation of documents, but in the appeals process itself. If the assessor discovers that the property is worth less than what it was initially purchased for, the homeowner is entitled to pay less property tax.
Once the paperwork has been completed, the homeowner should take these papers into the city assessor’s office and ask that the rates on the property be lowered. It is vitally important that the paperwork is completed by an official property assessor in order to successfully appeal property taxes.
A flimsy or ill-constructed assessment will not impress city officials, who have everything to gain and nothing to lose by finding small flaws or bureaucratic inaccuracies that would potentially invalidate the legitimacy of the paperwork. By investing significant amounts of time in the preparation of an irrefutable claim to lowered property value, a property owner will ultimately save himself enormous amounts of stress.
Property taxes appeals can take anywhere from between 45 to 60 days, depending on the process of the individual municipality. Usually, the paperwork is submitted to the County Appraiser, who must then weigh the evidence in a series of fact finding hearings.
To find out precisely how long this process will take, research the policy of the local County Appraiser. At the end of this period of time, the municipality must issue a decision on the validity of property tax appeals. The decision will be reflected in the next year’s tax notice.
Living frugally is often a matter of being vigilant about paying for exactly what is owed, and not being accidentally or purposefully overcharged. By taking careful steps to ensure that everything, including the value of something as significant as a home or other piece of property has been properly calculated, enormous amounts of money can be saved.