How to Fight a Tax Assessment

by Tommy SibigaSeptember 27, 2016

Two things are certain in life: death and taxes. Although taxes are guaranteed, the amount you pay may not be. Every year your local government comes up with an assessed value for your home to determine how much your annual taxes will be. If that value is too high -OR- you’d just like for it to be lower, there may be a way for you to fight “the man.” Here’s a few quick tips on how you might be able to fight the tax assessment.

First and foremost, you’ll need to educate yourself on your local government’s appeal process. Traditionally there will be a set of rules and timelines for how an appeal to the tax assessment can be made. The instructions for how to submit an appeal will likely either be included on your annual assessment or found on the county’s/city’s website. Focus specifically on timeline and make sure that you are filing within the given dates. Additionally make sure that you are using the appropriate method. You may be able to file in person OR you may need to submit via certified mail. You wouldn’t want your appeal to be ignored just because you didn’t follow the rules so examine the details carefully.

Another thing to inspect is the potential savings from a reduced tax assessment. Depending on your property tax amount and how off the assessment is will determine whether or not it’s worth fighting. According to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, between 30 and 60 percent of taxable property in the United States is over-assessed. Additionally, the NTUF says that fewer than five percent of taxpayers challenge their assessments. Calculate your numbers and you could be one of the lucky few who combats the assessment and benefits from the savings.
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There are three tips to look for in order to win the battle over taxable values. The first would be to look for errors. Inspect your property bill and make sure that they have your information correct. An honest and easy mistake to uncover would be having your home described inaccurately. Check the square footage, amount of bedrooms, amount of bathrooms, the size of your lot, availability of a garage, your house type, and other facts about your home. The bigger the error the more likely you are to guarantee a new assessed value.

Another tip that may help you win your case is if you just recently purchased the home and you paid less for it than the assessed value. Ultimately, a tax assessment is a tool for the government to charge property tax on what homes are believed to be valued at. If the home had just been publicly advertised on the market and yielded a lower price than the assessed amount, you have an easy case to defend the actual value of the home. Plus it may mean that you got a huge deal on your purchase!

Lastly, you’ll need to scrutinize the comparables that the assessor used to calculate your proposed value. They may have used some poor comparisons to inappropriately estimate your home’s price. You’ll need to be as accurate and factual as possible on this appeal tactic. A realtor or appraiser may be able to help provide specific numbers. It’s vital to look at closed prices and not list prices. It’s also crucial to use home sales that were publicly advertised on Multiple Listing Service and NOT just what your neighbor “said,” they sold their house for. If you can prove that higher priced homes are significantly better than yours, you might have a case.

A dollar saved is a dollar earned. So, if you are able to save money on your property taxes you are increasing money that you can place elsewhere. If you are thinking about contesting your tax assessment begin by learning the rules you’ll need to play and be sure to calculate the potential benefit of your time spent. Once deemed possible; look for errors, check the price you paid, and find some good comps. With a little effort, you could be one of the five percent who battles their assessed value AND wins a victory.


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Tommy Sibiga

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