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Appealing a Property Tax Bill in 5 Steps

Two people looking over a property tax bill.
Two people looking over a property tax bill.
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With home values on the rise in many states, some homeowners are reeling from higher property tax assessments. If you feel that your taxes are too high, it may be possible to win an appeal to have them corrected.

Here, we’ll cover some property tax basics and talk through the steps of appealing a property tax bill.

How Are Property Taxes Calculated?

Multiply your local property tax rate by the assessed value of your home to find out how much you can expect to pay in taxes.

Remember that property tax rates vary from municipality to municipality. Local governments typically set tax rates, which can go up or down every year.

Appraised Value vs. Assessed Value

There’s a big distinction between a home’s appraised value and its assessed value.

Appraisers evaluate homes based on what they consider the property’s fair market value. Assessed values are used only for tax purposes and are lower—sometimes much lower—than an appraised value.

5 Steps to Appealing Your Property Tax Bill

Rules and requirements for appealing property tax bills can vary depending on where you live and other factors.

Here’s a look at five common steps homeowners can take:

1. Review Your Assessment Letter

Your tax assessment letter will include some basic components, like the assessor’s value, assessed taxes, and some information about your home—usually a brief legal description of the property.

This is your first chance to check for errors—like over-reporting the home’s lot size—that may have resulted in a higher tax assessment.

2. Challenge Your Assessment

After reviewing your assessment letter, if you feel you have grounds to move forward with an appeal, you’ll want to check your local jurisdiction’s challenge window and paperwork requirements. This information is usually found somewhere on the assessment letter itself. Tax assessors allow a period of 30-90 days after issuing assessments for homeowners to come forward with challenges.

3. Check Property Records

Once you’ve submitted your intent to challenge your tax assessment, it’s time to start building your case. Your local property records office should be your first stop. Here’s what to look for:

    • Errors in reporting on your home’s
      • Square footage
      • Bedroom count
      • Bathroom count
      • Lot size
      • Recent sales of nearby homes that support a lower assessed value
      • Permits for improvements to neighboring homes that may have incorrectly inflated your home’s value
      • Assessed values for similar nearby homes that support a lower assessed value

4. Collect Supporting Documents

After you’ve done your due diligence, collect your research and call the assessor’s office to request an informal review. This can be done in person or over the phone with a tax assessor. In some cases, like when there has been a very apparent error, your assessor can make adjustments on the spot. In other cases, a formal appeals process may be required.

5. Submit Your Appeal

If you’re unable to adjust your assessed value based on an informal review, submitting a formal appeal is the final course of action. At this point, some homeowners choose to consult an attorney for help managing the process, which can take a year or more and may require an appearance before an appeal board.

Is it Worth it to Appeal Property Taxes?

For most people, it all comes down to the potential tax savings. Once you know your local tax rate, it’s an easy calculation to determine how much you could save on taxes if your appeal is successful. Just multiply the tax rate by the potential adjusted assessed value and compare it to your current rate.

Keep in mind that assessors take the current housing market into consideration. If home values in your neighborhood have been skyrocketing, you can expect to see a bump in the assessor’s valuation of your property. Your assessed value will also rise if you’ve made improvements that increase your home’s value, square footage, bedroom or bathroom count. If this is the case for you, it’s unlikely that you’ll win an appeal, and the process may not be with your effort.

There’s also always an outside chance that an appeal could lead to an increase in your assessed value based on new information presented to the appeals board.

Property Tax Exemptions for Veterans

Veteran homeowners may also be able to obtain a property tax exemption. Most states offer some form of exemption, although the specifics often vary.

Check with your local taxing authority to see if you might qualify for property tax exemptions.