Local governments collect property taxes to fund public services, such as schools, fire and police departments. The county or municipal assessor is responsible for determining the fair market value of commercial and residential property for tax purposes. This assessment should equal 100 percent of the current fair market value of the property. The valuation is used to determine the amount of taxes that will be levied. Each property owner pays a percentage of their property’s value to help the government meet its budgetary responsibilities.

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Although taxes should move in tangent with property values, some property owners have receive tax notifications that do not reflect the current prices in the real estate market. In some cases, local governments maintain or increase property taxes to offset the revenue lost due to declining property values. When this occurs, property owners can appeal the calculation.

The tax assessment and appeals process are particularly important because the system ensures that assessments are fair especially when real estate values are declining. You must submit documentation that supports your claim that the evaluation is incorrect.

Initial Review

Begin by contacting your local taxing authority. Schedule an appointment to meet with the officials to review the assessment. The calculation may be due to a clerical error. Verify that the square footage, number of rooms and other physical characteristics listed on the assessment notice are correct.

Formal Appeal

If the officials do not revise the assessment at the meeting, request the forms required to file a formal petition. The assessor issues tax notices once a year. Generally, you must file an appeal within three months of receiving the official tax notification. Some jurisdictions require that property owners submit their appeal within 30 days of the postmark date.

Collect supporting documents, such as photographs, the current and previous tax notice as well as a list of comparable sales in the neighborhood. You can obtain the sales data by reviewing the deeds at the recorder’s office. Collect information on the recent sales of at least three comparable homes that have approximately the same square footage and number of rooms as your home.

It may also be necessary to perform a formal appraisal on the property, which can cost several hundred dollars. Ensure that you weigh the expense of an appeal against the increase in taxes. Submit the paperwork to the appropriate government office by certified mail within the allotted time. The officials will respond with the date and time of the hearing.

The appeals board will hear both sides of the case and render a decision. This is the taxpayer’s opportunity to explain their concerns and present their documents. The evidence must be compelling to reverse the initial assessment. If the assessment is not overturned, determine the process for appealing the board’s decision. This part of the process requires a court hearing before a judge.

Professional Advice

The assessment and appeals process can be complicated. In these cases, property owners should consult with a tax attorney or accountant who is familiar with the process.

What Happens Next?

Appealing the tax assessment does not eliminate the requirement to pay the taxes that you owe. Failure to pay property tax can lead to interest and penalties. The government will refund or credit the difference of the final assessment if you win the appeal.

Rachel is a blogger for Propel Tax, a property tax loan company in Harris County, Texas that specializes in offering financial relief to homeowners with their property taxes.


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