A few weeks ago, I got a call from Dan, who was listening to my radio show. He lives in the Atlanta metropolitan area, and his property value has dropped significantly over the past few years.
He received a tax bill last year that he thought was high. Then, in the fall, he received an additional tax bill that was even higher.
He wanted to know if it was worth appealing his property taxes and, if so, how he should go about doing it.
I always think it is worth appealing your property taxes. Let’s face it—you have nothing to lose. There is no penalty for appealing your taxes and being turned down by the tax assessor.
But if you’re successful, and your taxes are reduced, then you’ll save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. And future increases will be based on your lower tax assessment, which means appealing your property taxes is the gift that keeps on giving.
There are several ways you can appeal your property taxes:
It’s worth appealing your property taxes on an individual basis. After all, why should you pay more than your neighbor?
But counties and municipalities need our tax dollars to pay the salaries and benefits of those who keep our parks in good shape, run our libraries and village halls, clean and repair our streets, and pick up our garbage. And, particularly now, state, county, and local governments are running short of funds.
If enough homeowners successfully appeal their property taxes, state, county, and local governments will have to raise either the tax rate (the rate at which property is taxed, usually expressed per hundred dollars of value) or the state multiplier, which is also known as the state equalization factor (a number the state assigns to each county, depending on the assessment ratio, that raises or lowers the assessed valuation to a state-mandated level).
In short, your individual tax assessment might go down, and your bill might go down. But if your state runs short of funds, you might ultimately see your property tax bill go up.
Still, it’s worth appealing your property taxes, because even if your tax bill goes up, it will go up less than if you hadn’t appealed.
For more information, contact your county tax assessor’s office and find out what you need to do to appeal your property taxes, the dates by which appeals have to be filed, and whether you’re entitled to appeal your appeal (just in case you don’t like the result).
Ilyce R. Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at ThinkGlink.com and at the Home Equity blog for CBS MoneyWatch.
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