March 31, 2020
By Vanessa Saunders, MBA, MIMC, Broker Owner, Global Property Systems
Every homeowner pays property taxes on their home or commercial property. No one likes how much they’re taxed. Even if you pay off your mortgage, taxes are still assessed. Along with death, they never go away. But there are some simple tricks homeowners can use to lower the taxes they pay. Most involve lowering either the estimated value of the property or lowering the tax rate.
Ask to see your property card.
Your town hall has tax cards for every home that is taxed by that municipality. This card includes information about the size of the lot, the precise dimensions of the rooms, and the number and type of fixtures located within the home. Other information may include a section on special features or notations about any improvements made to the existing structure.
Errors are not uncommon on tax cards, so as you review your card, note any discrepancies, and raise these issues with the tax assessor. The assessor will either make the correction and/or conduct a re-evaluation.
Don’t build or add on anything permanent.
Any structural changes to a home or property will increase your tax bill. An extra bedroom or bathroom, even a large shed presumed to increase its value will increase your taxes. If you are planning a project, check your building and tax departments for an estimate on how much the project will increase your home’s valuation.
Check out the neighbors.
Find out what your neighbors are paying. Information about other home assessments in the area is also available to the public at the town hall. Find comparable homes to yours and see what they pay. If you find homes larger than yours paying less than you, there may be an error. It pays to bring it to the assessor’s attention as soon as possible so you can get a reassessment if necessary.
Let the assessor in to see your home.
A tax assessor will contact you to schedule an assessment. You can legally deny an assessor access, but it can force the town to automatically assign the highest assessed value possible for that type of property—fair or not. At this point, it’s up to the individual to dispute the evaluation with the town, which will be nearly impossible unless you grant access to the interior. If you took out permits for all improvements you’ve made to the property, you should be fine. If you didn’t, you should be FINED.
Accompany the assessor on his visit.
Walk the house with the assessor, and point out the good, the not so good and the not so good looking. Some assessors will only see the good points in the home such as the new fireplace or marble-topped counters in the kitchen. They’ll overlook the fact that the furnace is out of date, or that some small cracks are appearing in the ceiling.
Exemptions aren’t only for religious organizations or governmental offices. Depending on the town, you may qualify if you are a senior citizen, disabled, a veteran or are operating certain agricultural properties.
Grieve your taxes!
If you’ve done all the above (and even if you haven’t!) you can “grieve” your taxes – that is, file a tax appeal to lower the valuation of your house. It will cost you a few bucks for the filing. Hiring a property tax grievance attorney is a smart way to get expert help in this process. (You are taking on the government after all.) Grievance attorneys will usually take your case in return for part or all of one year’s tax savings. So if your taxes were $12,000, and the attorney got the town to lower your taxes to 10,000, your attorney would get (depending on your agreement) all or part of $2000.
Lower your tax rate. Move out!
You never liked it here anyway. The top ten states with the least property taxes are:
4. West Virginia
6. South Carolina
Global Property Systems says:
It can be hard to balance the desire for a beautiful home with the desire to pay as little tax as possible. However, there are some little things you can do to reduce your property tax burden without resorting to living in a dump.
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