FEDweek

How to Pare Your Property Tax

You shouldn’t meekly accept a higher valuation on your home, and the higher taxes that result. A protest might lower your tax bill.

Gaining tax relief from a lower valuation this year will pay off in the future, too. You’ll owe less tax each year as a result of your reduced valuation.

Is your house over-assessed? Possibly. That might be the case even if your assessment is below the current value of your property.

Suppose, for example, you believe your home is worth $400,000 and your local government’s policy is that such property is assessed at 100 percent of fair market value. If the assessed value shown on your real estate tax bill is $300,000, you might be inclined to accept the assessment and pay the tax.

However, if other houses worth $400,000 in the same jurisdiction are being assessed at an average of $250,000, you would be paying more than your fair share of the real estate tax burden.

In most jurisdictions, the procedure for protesting your assessment is fairly straightforward. Periodically, you’ll get an appraisal for your home’s value; there’s a deadline to file an appeal and a process that must be followed.

Step one, then, is to learn how soon an appeal must be filed. If the date is not on your appraisal notice, call your local assessor’s office to find out. Missing the deadline by even one day means you have accepted the appraisal and can’t appeal until the next round of notices, which might be a year or more away. You should send your request for an appeal by certified mail, to prove you have complied with the deadline.

Once you’ve filed your protest, one way to lower your assessment is to show that it contains actual errors. For example:

* Your house is assessed at a higher rate than authorized by law.

* Your home’s square footage might be incorrectly calculated.

* Your house may be listed as newer than it really is.

* Your house might be listed as having more bedrooms or bathrooms than is the case.

Therefore, you should ask the assessor’s office to see a copy of your property record card. Check to see if the information is accurate.