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Protest High Property Taxes Annually

If you just received a property tax assessment that made your eyebrows shoot up, it may be time to lodge a protest. It may sound like crazy advice, but O'Connor Tax Reduction Experts maintain that homeowners should protest their property assessments annually. 

Echoing the National Taxpayers Union, which says approximately 30 to 60 percent of taxable property in the United States is over-assessed, the tax reduction experts say that the process and people determining tax increases is too arbitrary, and that about half the houses are over-valued and half are under-valued. The valuation process is full of inaccuracies, and the appeal process is just as capricious, with middle and lower income taxpayers found overpaying the most. Yet, less than five percent of homeowners appeal their assessments.  

Further, appraisal districts hold it against you if you don’t protest, they say. If you didn’t protest last year taxes, then they believe you agreed to that value, and they have no reason to go reduce your assessment.  You also generally can’t see the criteria the appraisal district used to arrive at your valuation until you file a protest and show up for the hearing. 

Annually, you get a tax assessment statement that outlines county, city and school taxes, as well as special assessments. Somewhere on the document, there should be directions for how to file an appeal, by mail, electronically and in person. As soon as possible, follow the directions to start your appeal.  

First, look online or call the assessor’s office for a list of factors including time frames used to evaluate properties and render assessments, then compare them to your assessment.  Look carefully at your assessment for mistakes in square footage, lot size, number of bedrooms and baths. If you can’t find the assessment rate on your statement, call the taxing authority and ask what the assessment rate is. 

You’ll need your own evidence for the hearing, so ask your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network professional for help. They’ll be able to provide you with a comparative market analysis, a set of comparable homes for the period of the assessment. Choose three to five properties that are the same age, size, and condition of your home, noting any differences between the homes that may help your case. 

Bring your purchase contract and any other document you think will bolster your case, including a record of your home’s legal description. Home prices go up and down, so go to your neighbors and discuss their assessments. Do they feel the taxes have gone up too much? They may agree to share information to help your case and you can help them when they have their hearings, especially if you’re able to get your assessment lowered.   

In some cases, your real estate professional can accompany you to the hearing and help you argue your case for lower taxes to the tax appraiser. Be sure to be pleasant and friendly. The government workers whom you meet at the hearing are there to help you and will try to look at your evidence impartially. 

Remember, your initial assessment is based on the purchase price you paid for your home, not the assessment based on what the previous owner paid. Taxing authorities have an annual ceiling on the amount they can raise taxes, so the previous owner could have owned the home for many years before selling it to you. And paid quite a bit less in taxes.