No matter where you live, your property tax bill can take a big bite out of your annual income. In many parts of the country, property tax bills can easily stretch into the high four digits and even into five digits. With that much money on the line, property owners have a vested interest in keeping their assessments as low as possible. If you have been hit with a big increase in assessed value, or if you have a nagging feeling that your current assessment is too high, you do not have to take it lying down. Here are some practical steps you can take to challenge your assessment to lower your property tax bill and increase your tax return.
Understand the rules.
If you want to appeal your property tax assessment, you will only have a limited amount of time to do so. Check your assessment carefully to find that deadline, and make sure you get your appeal in well in advance of the deadline.
Take advantage of all your tax breaks.
Knowing the rules also means understanding the tax breaks to which you are entitled. Many states allow homeowners to shield a portion of their primary residence's value from taxation, so make sure those exemptions have been applied before you start the appeal process.
Check your property record.
Your property record is a kind of report card for your home, detailing things like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, along with any improvements you may have made along the way. An error on this report card could cause your assessment, and your tax bill, to be higher than it should be, so always check it for accuracy. If your county property records are online, you can find your property record there. If not, it will be waiting for you at the assessor's office.
Look at comparable sales and properties on the market.
Drive up and down your street and look for homes for sale. Check out the asking prices of those homes and compare them to the assessed value of your own property. If there is a big discrepancy, you will have additional ammunition when it comes time to appeal your property tax bill. You can also look at comparable sales to see what similar homes are selling for in your neighbourhood.
Gather your evidence.
The more evidence you have, the greater the likelihood your property tax assessment appeal will be successful. From blueprints that show the room sizes and floor plan layout to documentation on improvements, the more evidence you have to present, the better off you will be. Work with an accountant on this and other ways to increase your tax returns.