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Appeal assessment to save on property tax bills.

A record number of homeowners across the country are challenging their property tax bills and appealing their home assessments. It is free to do, and the only “cost” is your personal time in doing some research. A large percentage are having success with it, with some local municipalities such as King County/Seattle Washington reporting about 40% of homeowners are successful appealing their property taxes and the City of Chicago indicates about 50% of appeals are successful.

The property tax challenges are being filed in record numbers, from all types of homeowners and even businesses all across the country. Owners of $10 million estates are taking actions, as are owners of one-bedroom bungalows. Families taking this step range from residents of the high-tax enclaves surrounding or in Los Angeles and New York City, from taxpayers in the Midwest, and states like Florida, Arizona, and California. Across the nation people are challenging their property taxes and are having success.

How many homes are overassessed?

The facts show that many homes are overassessed and people are paying too much in property taxes. Organizations such as National Taxpayers Union estimates that about 30 to 50% of homeowners are paying too much money. What happens is that if some or many homeowners appeal their property tax assessment and if they are successful, their neighbors and others in the community are in effect “harmed” as they will need to pay more in taxes to offset those reductions. This is another reason it is so important to appeal an if other homes do so, and you fall behind, you will be in effect penalized.

What is now unfortunately happening is that approximately about 10 percent of large counties are raising the property tax rates that are associated with home values to minimize the revenue loss from people challenging their assessments.

The revenue losses are coming as homeowners prod towns for new assessments and as municipalities conduct regular reevaluations of their real estate. However even if your local town or county raises the rate, you can still appeal the valuation of your home.




Formula to appeal property taxes

There is no standard formula to determine property taxes. The process is different in almost every town or county, even those within the same state. Property taxes and the formula to determine them are determined by a disparate patchwork of local governments including cities, towns, school and local fire districts, and counties, all with their own rules. Mostly due to the fact that property tax formulas vary widely in how they are calculated from county to county, not every decrease in home assessed values will automatically lower a household's annual property taxes.

However, government officials and assessors across the nation say that there is no question that the number of home appeals and property tax challenges has risen over the years. There seems to be no letdown in them and the number of appeals keeps increasing.

Examples of homeowners appealing real estate property taxes

As just a few examples, in suburban Atlanta, thousands of people have gone to their local government offices to file their requests for property value reassessments before a March 31 deadline. Also, in sections of Ohio, property tax appeals and challenges have multiplied fivefold. Tax lawyers and assessors in the northern suburbs of New York have never been so busy with real estate work, and some cities and towns have hired extra employees to sift through the paperwork being filed.

Other examples of the increasing number of appeals includes New Jersey, which has the nation's highest property tax values, and it has been almost overwhelmed by tax appeals. One homeowner whose home in Bound Brook is assessed at almost $1.8 million, but can’t be sold and is languishing on the real estate market with an asking price of $1.3 million. She is a prime candidate to appeal her home value. As she can in effect reduce her tax liability to 1.3 million.

Throughout California, including areas near Los Angeles, there is an example of a homeowner challenging the assessed value of her home. Her two-bedroom home is located in a community for older residents and is assessed for as much as $580,000 three years ago. However, houses on her block are now selling for less than $500,000, so her home is overvalued by as much as $80,000.

Local assessors and property appraisers, who are normally concerned with comparable sales and land values,  are becoming extremely busy as property tax appeals are 10 times as high as they are normally. Some assessors are saying that most people are going to see a significant decline in their tax bill, if they just ask.







Cities and counties are always changing tax rates. In Contra Costa California, the county has now reduced the recorded property value of more than a third of the 350,000 privately owned properties as new assessments and valuations have been put into place. So the bottom line is do not hesitate to take this step on appealing your property taxes. Tens of thousands of other homeowners across the nation are doing so and are in fact saving money.


By Jon McNamara

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