Market values of homes are skyrocketing and higher property tax bills are soon to follow. Prepare now to knock your property taxes back down to earth.
What is happening
Property taxes typically lag the market. In bad times, the value of your home goes down, but the property tax is slow to show this reduction. In good times, property taxes go up when you buy your new home, but these higher prices quickly impact those that do not plan to move.
To make matters worse, you can now only deduct up to $10,000 in taxes on your federal tax return. That figure includes all taxes — state income, property and sales taxes combined. Here are some suggestions to help reduce your property tax burden.
What you can do
If you dread the annual letter informing you that your property tax is going to go up again, what can you do? Your best bet is usually to approach the assessor and ask for a property revaluation. Here are some ideas to successfully reduce your home’s appraised value.
Do some homework to understand the approval process to get your property revalued. It is typically outlined on your property tax statement.
Understand the deadlines and adhere to them. Most property tax authorities have strict deadlines. Miss one deadline by a day and you are out of luck.
Do some research before you call your assessor. Talk to neighbors and honestly assess the amount of disrepair your property may be in versus other comparable properties in your neighborhood. Call a few real estate professionals. Tell them you would like a market review of your property. Try to choose a professional that will not overstate the value of your home hoping to get a listing, but will show you comparable sales for your area. Then find comparable sales in your area to defend a lower valuation.
Look at your property classification in the detailed description of your home. Often times errors in this code can overstate the value of your home. For example, if you live in a condo that was converted from an apartment, the property’s appraised value could still be based on a non-owner occupied rental basis. Armed with this information, approach the assessor seeking first to understand the basis of the appraisal.
Ask for a review of your property. Position your request for a review based on your research. Do not fall into the assessor trap of defending your review request without first having all the information on your property. Meet the assessor with a specific value in mind. Assessors are used to irrational arguments, so a reasonable approach is often readily accepted.
While going through this process, remember to be aware of the pressure these taxing authorities are under. This understanding can help temper your position and hopefully put you in a better position to have your case heard.
— By Nancy J. Ekrem, CPA
DME CPA Group PC
Certified Public Accountants & Business Consultants