Tuesday, May 24 2011
With the housing market having taken a serious hit in the recent past, I am sure you all know that home values have been plummeting. Well, one thing that did not plummet along with that is the property taxes most people are paying on those homes. The taxes some of us have been paying on our homes have been inaccurate (or unfair) to say the least. Several months after the housing market was in a full-fledged decline, I started seeing a good bit of coverage on this topic. And at the top of the list was what could the average homeowner do about it? About the only remedy is to dispute the property tax assessment on your home.
I saw all kinds of websites and links to people offering their help and services, often for a pretty hefty fee. My first question was…is this even worth doing? If it costs me $500 to effectively dispute the property tax assessment of my home and I end up with $500 in savings, isn’t that a waste of time?
A Do It Yourself Appeal?
So, after quite a bit of research, I found out exactly what I had to do to complete this process. Getting this information almost seemed more time consuming and difficult than the actual process. You didn’t think they’d actually make it easy, did you? This process is probably going to differ slightly from state to state but I’ll give you the quick rundown.
From The Beginning
The first thing that I found out was that it was too late to dispute the value on my home for this current tax year, which didn’t surprise me in the least. So, my next project was to find out what I had to do to dispute next year’s assessment. The first obstacle I had to dig through was everyone telling me that “it’s too early,” or “call back later,” and things like that. Again, they’re not going to make it easy.
The first thing you should do is contact your local Tax Assessor’s Office to find out the exact procedure for your locality. After that, I found out the following:
Sometime early next year, I will be getting a notice in the mail from the state with their tax assessment of my property for the year 2011. The person that I spoke to at the Tax Assessor’s Office told me that by law the state had to send the letter out, but if I wanted to really ensure that I get the letter, I could file a property tax return form up until April 1, 2010. This all sounded a little cryptic to me. If they’re required to send it out by law, then why would I need to file something to ensure that they send it out? I’ve decided to roll the dice on that one for now. We’ll wait and see how the beginning of the year goes.
After you receive your letter, if you decide that you disagree with the state’s assessed value for your home, you can file an appeal. And basically, the first step in this appeal is to write a letter to the Tax Assessor’s Office. This letter must be sent within 45 days of the receipt of your letter from the state.
And basically, you simply tell them why you disagree with their assessment. But along with why you disagree, you do need to provide some sort of concrete evidence. The person that I spoke with wasn’t too forthcoming on what this proof might be, but after a little prodding, she explained that it should involve two key things to “prove” my case.
First, you will need a current appraisal of your home. And obviously, these cost money. An average amount for an appraisal of my home would be about $400. The second piece of advice she offered was to include recent home sales in your area of homes that are “comparable” to yours in size. If your home is assessed at $200K, for example, but you can show that six other homes in your neighborhood of comparable size recently sold for $170,000, then you should have a pretty good case. Where do you get these “comparables”? Believe it or not, I found a real estate agent that ran them for me for free. I’d imagine you could do the same as well if you look around hard enough.
After this, the Assessor’s Office will get back to you. They either stand by their original assessment, or they make an adjustment. Rather than ending my research there, I continued on with my questioning (the rep at the Assessor’s Office was fairly irritated with me by now). If you still disagree with the result, you can appeal it again. You simply write them back and tell them you still don’t agree. It is at this point that they will do “further” research into your case. After this, you will be sent another letter.
Still Don’t Agree?
And if you still don’t agree, you can pack up all of your proof and schedule a personal appearance in front of your county Board of Commissioners. There you can state your case in person and a final, non-disputable judgment will be rendered.
Is It Worth It?
At the very least, this IS worth it. I couldn’t uncover many statistics on the subject, but one set of statistics that I found showed that 26% of the time people were successful in their appeals, receiving an average reduction of 13% in their home values and an average savings of 19% on their property tax bills. The biggest thing you need to weigh is the cost of getting an appraisal done on your home versus what you might potentially save. Consult and even utilize a professional if you wish, but just remember that it’s all a risk. If you spend $1,000 and end up with nothing in savings, then obviously it wasn’t such a good idea. But if you genuinely feel like you have a case that could lead to substantial savings, I say go for it.
Tuesday, May 10 2011
Home owners who live in New York and New Jersey should expect to pay some of the highest property taxes in the country, according to a new survey released by Tax Foundation, a research group based in Washington, D.C. Tax Foundation recently released findings of its analysis of the median home property taxes imposed between 2007 and 2009 in counties with populations of 20,000 or more.
Coming in at No. 1 for highest property taxes? Nassau County, N.Y., where the median amount paid on a Nassau house was $8,478.
Nassau County officials and its residents aren’t happy about claiming the No. 1 spot. Anita MacDougall, an Oyster Bay taxpayer activist, blames the county’s high tax rates as a major factor for sluggish home sales.
"There are people who cannot afford to stay in their houses, and they can't sell because nobody wants to take on that tax burden," MacDougall says.
Top 10 Counties With Highest Property Taxes
The following is a list of the highest median property taxes (along with its median home values) in the top 10 counties nationwide, according to the Tax Foundation’s rankings.
1. Nassau County, N.Y.: $8,478; $494,000
2. Westchester County, N.Y.: $8,474; $562,700
3. Hunterdon County, N.J.: $8,413; $453,100
4. Bergen County, N.J.: $8,269; $486,200
5. Rockland County, N.Y.: $8,084; $482,300
6. Essex County, N.J.: $7,801; $400,900
7. Somerset County, N.J.: $7,684; $440,000
8. Morris County, N.J.: $7,507; $479,500
9. Passaic County, N.J.: $7,345; $384,500
10. Union County, N.J.: $7,308; $399,300
Source: “Group Ranks Nassau No. 1 in Property Taxes,” Newsday (April 26, 2011)
Friday, November 05 2010
Property tax caps made their way into the state Constitution Tuesday evening with strong support from Indiana voters (71.6%), cementing the reform package approved in 2008 and bringing certainty to local real estate markets, not to mention paving the way for progress on other important issues. Thank you, members, for your help this fall bringing attention to the ballot question and bumping up its support within the last week from 65% to 72%
Friday, October 01 2010
Using U.S. Census data, the nonprofit Tax Foundation has uncovered where the highest property taxes in the country are paid relative to the median value of the homes. Some of the locales may surprise you.
Tuesday, December 08 2009
INDIANAPOLIS – An Indiana House committee heard arguments Monday on whether caps on property tax bills should be placed in the state constitution, and the panel plans to vote on the measure next week.
A Senate committee plans to vote on the legislation Tuesday. If approved by the full Legislature during the session that gets under way in earnest in January, voters would decide whether the caps should be constitutional. Supporters say this would make it more difficult for future legislatures to undo the limits.
Several people who spoke in favor of the legislation before the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday said it would give property owners certainty about their future tax bills. Opponents said the caps already are taking a hit on the revenue streams of local governments, and there should be no rush to make them permanent.
Under a law passed in 2008, property tax bills on homeowners this year were capped at 1.5 percent of their homes' assessed values, with 2.5 percent limits on rental property and 3.5 percent caps on business property. The caps are to be lowered to 1 percent, 2 percent and 3 percent, respectively, in 2010.
The caps are expected to save property owners about $465 million in 2010 and $488 million the next year, but that's money local governments and schools will not get as a result. Counties and a handful of large cities can raise local income taxes to help offset losses due to the caps.
The caps were passed as a result of large increases in property taxes that occurred in 2007 in many parts of the state. The increases were due to a variety of reasons, including spending hikes by local governments and a move to annual assessment changes based on sales price data of property.
Taxpayer Aaron Smith of Lebanon spoke in favor of the constitutional resolution.
"For some folks, permanently capped property taxes are the tipping point keeping them from having to make terrible choices between keeping their homes, life-enhancing medication and nutritious meals," he said.
Kristen Brown of Columbus, who said she was testifying solely as a taxpayer, had no sympathy for local officials concerned about their revenue.
"It is really important that we taxpayers have some sort of degree of financial control over what I believe is excessive spending at the local level," she said.
Some opponents said classes of property should not be treated differently. Others said more time and data about the effects of the caps is needed.
"When we see how fast the world is moving we need to be prudent and keep as many options open as possible rather than confining ourselves to the cement of a constitutional change, said Chuck Little, executive director of the Indiana Urban Schools Association.
Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said his city already has cut 70 employees because of lost revenue due to reductions in property tax money.
"Our constitution should only be changed after proper analysis and debate," he said. "The 1, 2, 3 percent caps have not even gone into effect, therefore we have not even debated the consequences because we haven't seen the impact."