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Property Tax Protest – How to Wage A Winning Battle

Fighting an effective property tax protest is probably of more than academic interest if you’ve found yourself the victim of an overly high property tax bill. In this article I’d like to offer five tips on how you can successfully fight and win the real estate tax revaluation battle.

With wildly fluctuating property values in many parts of the United States and Canada, it is becoming more and more common for property owners to discover that their property’s assessed value has been overstated by the taxing authorities.

Why is this so?

Well for one thing, assessing offices are typically understaffed and in many cases simply can’t keep up with the workload involved with adjusting the values of hundreds or thousands of properties.

For another the taxing authorities often are slow to lower the valuation of a property, because it means the taxing authority collects less in taxes if they do. While this is not fair or otherwise justified, it is the reality. The fact is it is human nature for many career government workers to exercise this protective herd mentality in the name of job preservation.

With that said, here are the basic steps you need to take when mounting a property tax protest, i.e. a real estate tax abatement filing.

1. Go to your local tax assessor’s office and find out what the local tax calendar sets as the deadline for filing a property tax appeal.

2. Request the property tax cards for other homes that you know are fairly similar to yours in terms of construction style, total square footage of living area, age, location and quality. Create a small spreadsheet to help you organize and compare these factors.

3. Compare the assessed values of these homes with your own. If the physical factors are very similar the assessed values ought to be close–but often they are not. If yours has been assessed for tax purposes at a significantly higher value, you likely have a case to wage a real estate tax protest.

4. Adjust your findings for any obvious differences in value that you can determine from these records as well as your knowledge of he local area. Is a property assessed more highly perhaps because it is much younger than another, or because it is a custom home versus a tract home?

Sometimes there are good reasons for differences in assessed values for very similar homes, but probably more often there really is no good reason. Apply some common sense here when weighing these factors, and use the “smell” test. That is, if it stinks, there is probably something rotten about the assessed value! And that is reason enough to take on a property tax protest.

5. State your findings succinctly in a letter to the property tax assessor and avoid being overly dramatic or outraged if you really do feel you are getting a raw deal. Property tax assessors are human, and like you they will react better to honey as opposed to vinegar.

You might even start off with an informal discussion with the assessor before filing an official abatement request. Sometimes an assessor will grant relieve based upon a good, simple argument.

There’s no reason to remain a victim of poor government and over taxation. It’s easy to wage a winning property tax protest armed with the right information.

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