HERE IS HOW TO GET YOUR PROPOSED PROPERTY TAX INCREASE REDUCED, OR EVEN WIPED OUT
NOTE: The majority of the information in this section has been compiled over the last several years and the bottom line remains the same: Get off your butt and challenge the taxing authority before the deadline! Whining is not gonna cut it, so get to work.
You must read this paragraph before going any further:
Since you're reading this information on-line right now, it means that you've got the same resources at your disposal that I have. Which means that if you can't find something in this section, you need to spend the time to research and locate whatever it is you're looking for. Its all right here on this web site, free of charge.
I'm not a nursemaid and I'm not your parent born to raise you: If you're old enough to own property, you're old enough to look for whatever it is you need. If you can't find the website for your county's tax assessor
, if you can't find a phone number or an address, this means you haven't looked hard enough.
AGAIN, IT'S ALL RIGHT HERE ON THIS WEBSITE, AND COMPLETELY FREE OF CHARGE.
Don't e-mail me with really dumb questions because you didn't spend the time to look for what you need, because I won't reply in the manner you may request: If you have a truly unique question or situation, then bring it on. Don't give me your life's history: Get to the point and do it in 50 words or less...or your e-mail will go straight to the delete folder. Fair enough?
Alrighty then! Let's get your property taxes knocked down a few bucks....
Your "TRIM" Notice
The Truth in Millage (TRIM) Notice is an important notice. It tells you last year's market value, this years market value as of January 1, and this year's assessed value. The market value column is our office's opinion of what a willing buyer would have paid a willing seller for your property as of last January 1.
IMPORTANT: By the 1992 "Save Our Homes" Amendment to the Florida Constitution, the annual increase in assessed value of your Homesteaded property can be no greater than 3% (or the certified Consumer Price Index -- the inflation rate -- whichever is less) -- regardless of how much your property increased in actual market value.
To give you an example: if your Homesteaded property was assessed at $50,000 last year, and its actual market value increased this year to $75,000, your maximum assessment for tax purposes this year would be only $51,500.
The only way your assessment can increase more than this is if there was a change in ownership, or improvements to your property were not reflected in last year's assessment.
If the market value of your property declined since last year, this year's market value will reflect that decline in the market. However, your assessed value will continue to increase by 3% or the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less, as long as assessed value is less than market value.
If the property shown on the TRIM Notice is not your Homestead , then the columns for "market value" and "Assessed value" will be the same. If the property has a classified use value, such as for agriculture, the assessed value column is its classified use value. Even if the market value shown is higher than your estimate of your property's market value as of January 1, your tax bill for Homestead property will still be based on the consumer price index increase over last year's assessed value. If you do not do anything, your November tax bill will be based on the figure shown in the assessed value box.
All the exemptions to which your property is entitled are shown in the boxes marked "Exemptions" and "Senior Exemption." If you bought property during the last calendar year, and your seller qualified for exemptions, the exemptions shown are those for which your seller qualified. These exemptions will be removed for next year unless you personally apply for your own exemptions. If you applied for exemptions and none are shown in the "Exemptions" boxes, you should contact the Property Appraiser's office at once and find out whether there is a problem with your exemptions.
All properties pay taxes county wide to your local County Commission and School Board. Other taxing jurisdictions that are less than county wide are the Cities and Towns, Hospital, Water and Special Tax Districts. All of these taxing bodies must hold public hearings before setting their rates. The dates, times and places of these hearings are shown in the fourth column of your TRIM notice, along with telephone numbers you can call for further information about the taxing bodies' proposed rates. In addition, some non-ad valorem levies are shown on your tax bill but not on your TRIM notice. These are called non-ad valorem levies since the amount of the levy does not depend on the value of your property.
The PROPERTY APPRAISER'S OFFICE IS RESPONSIBLE ONLY FOR THE MARKET VALUE OF YOUR PROPERTY. By the Florida Constitution and Statutes, this is the amount a willing buyer who did not have to buy your property would pay to a willing seller who did not have to sell as of last January 1.
Early feedback from listeners and viewers indicates that the appraisal districts for most counties are being bombarded by protest letters. Early indications point to representatives of both counties making deals over the phone WITHOUT THE TAXPAYER EVER HAVING TO ACTUALLY GO TO THEIR HEARING!
This is a potentially stunning victory for consumers/taxpayers if this trend holds true. File your protest letters at once to make your particular deadline!!! And do not "think" or "assume" you have a deal with your appraisal district unless and until they send you a verification of this new appraisal/taxation amount. Get it in writing; if you do not receive it by your date before the review board, you'd better make your appointment or lose your chance for another year!
A couple of years ago I had my "day in court" so to speak, In front of the Appraisal Review Board and I did okay:
a. I got them to decrease their proposed property value increase from $5,200 to only $900!
b. This amounts to a 90% cut in their proposed increase.
c. This amounts to cutting my tax increase to only 1/10th of what they had proposed!
If consumers don't take control of any situation, they're handing it over to someone else that might not have their best interests at heart. And the longer you wait to challenge these increases, the harder it is to get values backed down in the future.
Besides, over 60% of property owners are successful in gaining some relief when they protest/challenge these increases!
Q: Our property taxes escalated right through the ceiling this year. We're all probably on a fixed income and have no idea how we are going to pay them. Do we have a right to protest them?
A: Not only do you have a right to protest your property tax bill, if you do you'll join tens of thousands of people across the country who are doing the same thing. Your first step is to review your tax bill in two areas:
1. The assessed value of your land and,
2. The value of the improvements.
Often these are in error (such as the size of the lot), which can cause the corresponding tax to be wrong as well. Challenge any and all errors!
Worth Noting: If you've made any capital improvements to the property in the past year, this could account for the rise in assessed value. Most assessors only review properties every few years; so it's possible that the remodeling or renovating you did previously is just now being taxed. This is one reason why, when a buyer purchases a home, property taxes usually rise in the next year or two since the assessor now has a sale that can often be used to justify a higher assessed value (known as "comps.")
Locate information about how your assessed value and corresponding tax can be protested:
Either the information will be spelled out in detail on your assessment notice or you will be advised to contact the assessor's office for further information. Texas counties have a detailed procedure you must follow in order for your protest to be filed and heard. This includes a time deadline for filing the protest...and they will stick to the letter of the law. You've got your "window of opportunity" and if you don't react in time, tough.
Make sure you're well armed with information to back up your protest: Do your homework! Visit the appropriate county offices to research properties like yours; learn both what they sold for and what their assessments are now. Take notes on comparable homes with assessments lower than yours. Information is power when it comes to fighting city hall.
Remember, everyone in the country is affected by property tax: Owners of all types of real property (residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural) are directly affected because they receive tax bills annually. People who lease real property are also affected because part of their monthly rent is calculated on the amount of property tax the landlord must pay.
The big problem is, how do you know for sure that you're not paying more than your fair share? Here's a common example: Suppose you went to the local supermarket and bought $75.00 worth of groceries. At the check-out line you gave the cashier a hundred dollar bill and the cashier gave you back some money. Would you count your change to be certain that you got back the right amount? Of course you would, because that is the prudent and intelligent thing to do. Then why shouldn't you do the same thing on a costly household expense like your annual property tax? Why should you assume that the government is correct and has treated you fairly?
SEVEN STEPS TO LOWERING YOUR PROPERTY TAXES
GET YOUR PROTEST LETTER IN A.S.A.P! You snooze, you will lose. Follow the simple format (sample attached) and get it in to your local taxing authority within the time limit outlined on your letter. You have only 25 days from the date they mailed it, so get after it! Send it certified return receipt for proof of service.
DEFINE COMPARABLE WORTH: It's simple to get started...Go to the assessor's office and examine your property record card for errors. The card will contain a description of the house and grounds, along with the assessed value and the math by which it was arrived at.
Errors are notoriously common. You're down for four bedrooms when you have three. Your lot is 70 by 180, not 170 by 180. Your attic is not finished. The pool was filled in years ago. The big plus of fixing a record error is that the resulting tax reduction lasts forever. And it's easy. Just tell the assessor, who will usually fix it on your word without a formal hearing. You're out the door.
CONSIDER HIRING AN EXPERT TO ASSIST: Assuming the records are correct, you may well choose to hire an expert if you're convinced your house would not sell for anywhere near the value placed on it by the assessor.
To challenge an assessment, you must demonstrate that comparable homes in your neighborhood are selling for less than your appraised value. Get a quick sense of this by talking to your local real estate agent. For free or for a small fee, most are happy to comb their listings to see what homes like yours are selling for and tell you what yours might bring. You want to get data on three comparable homes that have recently sold and three that are now on the market. Or you might use the services of a real estate appraiser. Many will do a partial appraisal for clients considering an appeal for a third or less of a full report...as little as $75. Contact us for assistance and we can help.
If it turns out that the market value of your home is within several thousand dollars of the assessment, stop here: Your next step, in most states, is to appear before a tax panel, and experts say boards dislike dickering over small differences. Some jurisdictions won't hear your appeal unless your over-assessment exceeds 10%.
If you are substantially over-assessed, you might want to go ahead with the formal appeal.
You have two choices: Do it yourself or hire an expert. Going it alone became popular in the late 1980s, in the wake of the real estate turndown. Self-help books abound, but that route is time-consuming, and it's easy to lose if you don't understand the process. Your worst mistake is to go in with a chip on your shoulder! Contact us for representation. We are experts.
The art of winning an appeal depends on those houses you're comparing with yours: Remember that the houses are similar, but they're not exactly alike, so the expert's job is to adjust for the differences, adding for this and subtracting for that, to reach the true market value of your house.
House A has two fireplaces to your one, but your house is newer by three years.
House B is 25 square feet smaller, but it's on a larger lot.
House C has a finished attic but also a soggy basement. Each asset or defect has a numerical value attached to it. This is where it gets complicated and is what the appraiser knows how to do and the homeowner doesn't.
Appraisers and consultants have another advantage: extensive databases of area home sales, including details on interior conditions and improvements. The county doesn't have all those records.
Appraisers who are licensed have a special standing before boards as sort of expert witnesses. If they present an appraisal, boards usually side with their findings. A full appraisal can run to $300 or more, so whether it's worth it depends on how much it saves you and by how often the jurisdiction reassesses.
Get A Referral: Another approach is to hire a property tax consultant. They charge on a contingency basis, so if they appeal your assessment and lose, you'll wind up paying nothing. In theory, at least, property tax consultants won't take on cases unless they're convinced they can win them. But as advocates, they don't have the credibility of appraisers before boards. In many areas, anyone can hang out a consultant's shingle. They can bungle your case and waste your time. And never deal with any of these so-called "tax reduction consultants" that want any up-front fees.
Legitimate consultants make their real money in commercial and industrial appeals and are generally reluctant to take on residential clients. Be aware that a reasonable fee is one-third of the tax savings for the first year, but some may try to charge as much as 50% for each year the reduction remains in effect. Negotiate!
Appraisers and property tax consultants are listed separately in the Yellow Pages, but the best way to locate one is probably through a referral from a real estate agent or a lawyer. Fighting the country tax assessor/collector was never designed to be easy, but with the right professional and knowledge, it can be a lot less taxing.
IF YOU'VE RECENTLY BOUGHT A HOUSE:
When buying a house, remember that the property taxes listed on the real estate fact-sheet could be incorrect as it is sometimes obtained from the vendor's memory or old records. To get an accurate amount, you can check the property taxes at City Hall. Just ask to see the Assessment Role. This is also a good time to check that the taxes accurately reflect the house.
An example? It's entirely possible that a past owner removed an amenity but didn't notify the assessment office. As a result, the house could be over-assessed.
Obvious causes for reassessment are the removal of a feature that added value to the property. Perhaps a swimming pool has been filled in, or a utility building has been torn down. These changes should be reflected in the assessed value of your home and thus should result in lower taxes.
OTHER TAX REDUCTION STRATEGIES: Another strategy that can improve your chances of a tax reduction is to find something recent that is a legitimate cause for reduced property values. It should be recent, otherwise, your appeal could be refused on the grounds that the cause of lower value is already reflected in the taxes.
· Some possible changes could be re-zoning or redevelopment that raises noise and traffic levels in your neighborhood. In such situations, you can get your neighbors to join you in an appeal. The group effort will carry more weight than an individual "cry in the wilderness".
· Justify a reduction with clear reductions in value such as the removal of an amenity.
· Justify a reduction with recent changes in your neighborhood that downgrade property values.
· Get your neighbors to join you in a group appeal.
OTHER TAXING THOUGHTS: "I've heard that the Assessor might have errors on my home's property data. How can the Assessor make mistakes?"
Gee. Let's see. They're overworked, under paid, and under staffed! PLUS, they are government workers and only want that paycheck and pension. In other words, they just don't give a damn! You might have some very good people in your county assessor's office, but they have a bunch of work to do. They simply don't have the time to give each and every parcel the consideration it deserves, and errors occur. The "computer generated" assessments can introduce even further distortion into the results.
Valuing Property: The appraisal district determines the value of all taxable property in the county. Before the appraisal can begin, the appraisal district compiles a list of the taxable property. The listing for each property contains a description of the property and the name and address of the owner.
State law requires chief appraisers who appraise the same properties for different taxing units to exchange information on the properties' ownership, description and other data. To the extent possible, the appraisers work together to appraise each property at the same value in each appraisal district. When filing information, property owners with property in more than one appraisal district must file with each appraisal district office. The chief appraisers will mail these owners a notice each year advising them of this process.
How is your property valued? The appraisal district must repeat the appraisal process for property in the county at least once every three years.
To save time and money, the appraisal district uses mass appraisal to appraise large numbers of properties. In a mass appraisal, the appraisal district first collects detailed descriptions of each taxable property in the district. It then classifies properties according to a variety of factors, such as size, use and construction type.
Using data from recent property sales, the district appraises the value of typical properties in each class. Taking into account differences such as age or location, the district uses the typical property values to appraise all the properties in the class.
For individual properties, the appraisal district may use three common methods to value property: market, income and cost approach. The market approach is most often used and simply asks, "What are properties similar to this property selling for?"
The value of your home is an estimate of the price your home would sell for on January 1. The appraisal district compares your home to similar homes that have sold recently and determines your home's value.
The district uses the other methods to appraise types of properties that don't often sell, such as utility companies and oil leases. The income approach asks, "What would an investor pay in anticipation of future income from the property?" The cost approach asks, "How much would it cost to replace the property with one of equal utility?"
What if your property value rises? A notice of appraised value tells you if the appraisal district intends to increase the value of your property. Chief appraisers send two kinds of notices of appraised value. A detailed notice contains a description of your property, its value, the exemptions and an estimate of taxes that might be owed. This notice is sent under three circumstances:
If the value of your property is higher than it was in the previous year (the appraisal district' s board of directors can decide that the district will send detailed notices only if a property' s value increased by more than $1,000);
If the value of your property is higher than the value you gave on a rendition (see next section); or
If your property wasn't on the appraisal district's records in the previous year.
The chief appraiser will send a short notice without the estimate of taxes if your property was reappraised or changed hands or upon the request of you or your agent.
The chief appraiser must send you the notice of appraised value by May 15 or as soon thereafter as possible. If you disagree with the value, you have until May 31 or 30 days from the date the notice is delivered (whichever is later) to a file a protest with the appraisal review board.
The notice of appraised value explains how you can file a protest with the review board if you disagree with the district's actions.