How Do I Appeal My Property Tax Assessment?

How Do I Appeal My Property Tax Assessment?

Property taxes are on the rise nationwide, even as property values are on the decline.

In this tough economy, increasing property taxes mean more people are in jeopardy of losing their homes.

As many as 60 percent of properties across the country are overassessed, according to the National Taxpayers Union, a nonprofit group that promotes lower taxes.

Property tax bills are arriving in mailboxes across the country, and Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments and “Good Morning America’s” personal finance contributor, explains how you can determine if your property tax bill is too high.

Q: How are property taxes determined?

A: Property taxes are usually calculated by taking the assessed value of your home and multiplying it by the tax rate that has been determined by your local government. Applicable exemptions are then subtracted from your total bill. The property taxes are used to finance local schools, police and other municipal infrastructure and services.

Property taxes are always controversial, and are even more so now that the economy is so bad and local governments are losing tax revenue. Because of the resulting budget shortfalls, counties and towns are eager to get every possible property tax dollar, so those taxes are rising.

Property values declined an average of 18 percent each year between 2006 and 2009, Hobson said. Despite the decline, property taxes increased 7 percent.

Q: Are the property assessments accurate?

A: The National Taxpayers Union estimates that up to 60 percent of properties are overassessed.

If you believe your tax bill appears high, you might be right. To challenge your bill, you should first get a copy of your property’s assessment from your municipality’s property assessor’s office and check to make sure all the reported information about your property is correct.

Municipalities use different ways to determine a property’s assessment. Hobson said you should check with the assessor’s office about the way it calculates your home’s assessed value. It may not always be the full market value of your home.

Web-extra Tips:

Here’s some extra advice from Hobson about how you should appeal your property tax assessment:

• Before you decide to appeal your tax assessment, make sure you understand all the fees. Due to the increase in appeals, some municipalities now impose appeal filing fees to cover the cost of the process.

• Pay close attention when you examine your property record, especially if you filed a permit for a renovation. Many times assessors will assume that since you filed a permit, the renovation was done, and they’ll increase your assessed value accordingly. If you did not go through with the renovation, inform the assessor’s office.

• Beware of scam artists who promise to help you lower your taxes. If a service asks for a large fee, or their promised reduction seems way too high, then these are definite red flags.

• When you appear for an informal or formal appeal don’t get emotional or go off on tangents about your dislike for taxes. The best way to get through to reviewers is to make sure your presentation is short, to the point, and relates only to your situation.

Each state has it’s own guidelines for tax appeals; Indiana has an informative resource available to it’s residents.

According to the State of Indiana’s web site; you have 45 days from the date of receipt of any of the following three documents:

Appeals can be filed on Indiana Form 130 Short – Taxpayer’s Notice to Initiate an Appeal – Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals,  or any piece of paper as long as the request for appeal contains the name of the property owner, property address, mailing address, phone number, and parcel number. An appeal should be filed with the local assessing official.

Additional appeals documentation:

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