How to Appeal Property Taxes

Four Parts:Deciding Whether to AppealAssessing the Value of Your PropertyAppealing an Assessment on Your OwnSeeking Professional Assistance

Savvy owners need to inspect their property tax bills carefully to be certain that they are accurate. Assessments can be appealed for two reasons: the assessment included flawed information or a review of comparable properties indicates that the assessment was too high. The process of appeal can be long and expensive, costing more than you are liable to earn back. Do careful research to determine if you have a strong enough case to proceed.

Part 1
Deciding Whether to Appeal

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    Act quickly. The deadline for filing a property tax return can range anywhere from 30 to 120 days; be sure that your appeal of the tax assessment is filed within this time frame. Instructions for when and how to file should be located on the tax bill. If not, check the local government website or call the assessor.[1]
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    Examine your tax bill for errors. Check that basic information such as square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms as well as additions such as garages or sun rooms is accurate. For example, if you've removed a garage to increase the size of the yard, it will negatively impact your property's value.[2]
    • If there are blatant errors in the assessment, it will be easy to appeal and you should proceed.
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    Consider changes in property values. Sometimes you will face a substantial hike in your property tax bill, that reflects actual increases in the value of local real estate. These you will not able to appeal. However, if real estate values are declining, this might not be reflected in your appeal and you could have a case.
    • Often assessors only calculate changes in property values once every two years, or even less frequently. During a period where property values are declining, these infrequent assessments can mean that the assessor has not accounted for decreases in the value of your assessment. Thus, you will be more likely to have a case.[3]
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    Account for the time and money you will need to expend. A property tax appeal can take months or even years of work. If you are not in a market with high taxes and high real estate values, you can probably only expect a return of $200-$300. The cost of hiring a professional to assist you can cost as much as you will save.[4]
    • However, if you correct a property tax assessment now, it might result in lower assessments in subsequent years, ultimately saving you a considerable amount of money in the long term.
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    Consider the risks. There are no national statistics, but some localities report that appeals are successful 30%-50% of the time. That means that there is a reasonable chance that you will save money, but also a reasonable chance that you will waste your time. There is even a small chance that the assessors could realize that they missed something in their initial assessment, and your bill could be increased.[5][6]
    • If you are selling your house, consider that lowering your assessment could detrimentally affect the selling price of your home.

Part 2
Assessing the Value of Your Property

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    Research the sales of comparable properties. Your tax bill should list the assessed value of your home, which is the basis for your tax bill. See what price homes in a similar area and similar square footage are selling for. You will have a good case to appeal if you find that your home is assessed at a considerably higher value than five similar homes.[7]
    • Do not forget to account for the equalization rate. Many districts multiply the value of a property by 50% or 75% before they assess the tax rate. Thus, at first appearance, it might look like they have assessed your property at $200,000, when they have actually assessed it at $400,000. Pay close attention to the tax bill to determine if the assessment has been equalized.[8]
    • Carefully consider whether there is something about your property that makes it less comparable to these properties than it might appear at first sight. Do you have a faulty foundation or other damage to your house the assessor might be unaware of? Has the assessor accounted for the fact that your house is close to loud traffic, a noisy school, or an unsightly view?
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    Consider a professional assessment. Real estate agents can be hired to visit and assess the value of your property. This, however, will rarely be cost efficient. Unless you live in an area with extremely high property values or property taxes, you can usually only expect savings of about $300 from an appeal. Having a professional assessment can cost $250-$500.[9]
    • Some localities allow professional assessments to be used as evidence when making an appeal, others do not. Check the tax bill and the website of the local assessor to determine whether this is the case. If you cannot find any information, call the assessor directly. Whether or not the assessment can be used as evidence will be a major determinate in whether it is worth the expense.
    • If the assessment can be used as evidence, it is important to hire someone whose professional credentials are respected. You should hire a local, because locals will have a more convincing understanding of local variations in neighborhood value. Hire someone with national certifications, through, for example, the Appraisal Institute or the National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers.[10]
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    Compare your property tax bill to comparable properties. You can find the tax bills for other properties at the assessor’s office. Sometimes the data is even listed online. If this is not possible, ask your neighbors how much their bill was. Typically, their properties should be of a similar value.[11]
    • The website ValueAppeal, allows you to research local home prices and tax assessments. This can be a quick and useful way to determine if the assessment was unfair.
    • If you find discrepancies that you believe will lower your taxes, contact the assessor's office and explain your situation and request a meeting. Sometimes, you can resolve the problem at this initial meeting, but if you cannot work out something to your satisfaction, there are further appeals you can make.

Part 3
Appealing an Assessment on Your Own

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    Review the tax bill and the city website. The tax bill will usually have clear instructions for how to appeal your assessment. If not, review the city website. Pay particular attention to deadlines. If you miss these, you will be unable to complete your appeal.
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    Call the assessor. Typically, the assessor will be willing to give you advice about how to proceed and what types of evidence you can present. If you have strong and clear evidence that the assessment was flawed, the assessor might be willing to adjust it after a phone conversation.[12]
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    Write a formal letter of appeal. Typically, the first step in making a property tax appeal is to write a formal letter to the assessor. List all evidence that your property was mis-assessed. Attach supporting documents. You might also need to complete and send along legal documents; contact the assessor to determine if that is true. [13]
    • Document any inaccuracies in the assessment, including mistakes in the square footage of the house, the land, the number of bedrooms, and the number of bathrooms.
    • Point out any outstanding features that the assessors might not have considered when valuing the property. If there is damage to the house or factors that make the neighborhood less than desirable, describe these at length.
    • List comparable houses that were assessed at a lower value.
    • You can also attach to the letter documents supporting your case. Pictures of property damage, professional assessments, and printouts describing comparable properties can bolster your case.
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    Sit in on another tax assessment appeal hearing. If your initial appeal is rejected, you can usually appeal to an independent committee. Before you do so, try to sit on a meaning to get a sense for how to make your case and how much work will be required.
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    Go to the property appeal hearing. You will typically need to pay a filing fee of $10-$25 and might want to hire a lawyer to argue your case. Be prepared for what may be a long wait to be heard by the board. If you do choose to appeal on your own, you should bring lots of substantial evidence to present and be prepared to argue your case.[14]
    • Take any evidence of the decline of your property's value when you go for your own tax appeal hearing. That evidence might be photos of comparable properties as well as photos of your property, an assessment of your property from a certified assessor and a written list of mitigating circumstances that you feel lower your property's value, such as location near a busy street.
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    Ask if you can appeal your tax assessment to a state board. As in filing a local property tax appeal, pay close attention to the deadline dates, and make sure you file your notification to the board in time. The county clerk's office should be able to supply you with all the necessary paperwork.

Part 4
Seeking Professional Assistance

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    Consider whether expenses merit hiring a professional. In addition to a retainer, you will likely be asked to pay anywhere from 15%-50% of the amount that the lawyer has saved you. With hidden fees and the retainer, the expense of hiring a professional might not cover your tax savings. Unless you have strong reason to believe you have been over assessed, consider a different course.
    • You should also pay close attention to the contract to determine if you will be assessed extra fees. Some lawyers might charge an additional fee of over $200 if they are required to get a professional assessment. Others will charge large fees if you are not prompt in completing payment.[15]
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    Be prepared to pay early. In these cases, lawyers typically base their fees off of how much they are able to save you. However, it is possible that you will need to pay some fees in advance. Upon taking the case, the lawyer will often charge a $100 retainer. You will also need to pay a percentage of what you have saved upon the decision of the appeal. This may be before you would generally be required to pay your property taxes.[16]
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    Ask around for an attorney or assessment challenge company. To find a credible company, it is often useful to get the opinions of people you respect. Ask friends for lawyers they consult, or if you have a lawyer, ask if they have a recommendation for a lawyer who focuses on real estate.
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    Pick a qualified attorney. Ask your attorney for former clients he had worked with who had similar cases. Get their phone numbers so that you can contact them and ascertain whether the lawyer gave good service. Ask the lawyer how long he they have been in business. Try to find someone who has worked in your county, because local property tax systems can vary considerably.[17]


  • If your property tax is paid by your mortgage company, you might have to request that a copy of the tax assessment be sent to you. If you do succeed in lowering your property tax, make sure that reduction is reflected in your monthly mortgage payment.

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Categories: Taxes and Fees