Property value can fluctuate wildly over both short and long periods of time, which makes applying accurate property tax rates quite tricky. As such, mistakes are often made and property owners overtaxed.
It can be an incredibly daunting situation, but you’re well within your rights to file a grievance, contest the valuation of your property, and, possibly, save a pretty penny.
What Exactly Does it Mean to Grieve Taxes?
A tax grievance is quite simply a grievance you have with your property tax. If you feel that the current rate is inaccurate or unfair, you can state your qualms as an official grievance with your local taxation authorities.
The authorities will then reassess your property’s value in order to test the validity of your grievance.
If you are found to be correct, the property tax rate will be amended, but if you are found to be incorrect, your rate will remain unchanged. In some fairly isolated cases, property was found to be undervalued, and tax rates were increased.
Who Can Grieve Property Taxes?
Any owner of residential or commercial property can file a property tax grievance. If you’re paying the tax, then you have every right to contest the current assessment if you feel it’s incorrect.
How Often Are Property Tax Assessments Carried Out, and How Are They Done?
Most taxation authorities re-evaluate property value on an annual basis, which is great, as it means no property owner is locked into an unfavorable tax rate for too long; however, these assessments really aren’t as detailed as you may think.
The first thing to note is that, in most cases, nobody will be knocking on your door and nosing around your home or business. Typically, property tax assessments are based on area comparables and an exterior examination of your property.
With assessment protocols being as noninvasive as they are, it’s quite common for people to feel that the taxing authorities don’t have sufficient information to raise their property tax.
Say, for instance, if certain areas of your house are in a worse condition than when you purchased the property, if anything, the valuation should be lower than it was in the past.
Another reason you might file a grievance is if your property tax has skyrocketed due to appreciation of your local area, but you don’t see any evidence of such appreciation in your surroundings.
You might also feel that the comparables used to assess the value of your house aren’t similar enough to form an accurate basis for the calculation.
5 Ways To Grieve Your Property Tax Assessment
If you feel your property has been overvalued by your local taxation authorities, there are a few different methods of stating a grievance.
- Setting up an Informal Meeting
The quickest and easiest way to express your discontent is by calling the appraisers and booking an informal meeting, so you can discuss your reservations in detail. You may also be permitted to drop in during office hours without having called in advance.
The appraiser will be able to give you all the details on how the latest tax rates were calculated, after which, you may realize that the assessment was in fact accurate.
Bear in mind that if you disagree with the points made by the assessor, the burden of evidence falls on you, and as the assessor is always assumed correct, it can be a rough ride. Before going into this meeting, we’d recommend…
- Hiring a licensed independent appraiser to reassess your property value. If the second opinion says the house has indeed been overvalued, it forms a strong foundation for your grievance.
- Collecting evidence of the price you paid for the property. If this was a recent transaction, the costs will stand as proof of overvaluation.
If the assessor is unable to convince you that the assessment was accurate, you must submit your findings to a Board of Assessment Review. This will take time, but this is the stage that may actually garner some results, so make sure your argument is airtight, and try to be patient.
- Unequal Assessment
Now we’re getting into very specific grievances, all of which require the filling of an official complaint form.
Unequal assessment means that you believe your house was assessed on an unfavorable basis when compared to the average value of other properties within the same tax base.
As you’ll need to do an extensive amount of research, Unequal Assessment isn’t considered the best way to go about filing a grievance.
- Excessive Assessment
Excessive Assessment has a much higher success rate than Unequal Assessment claims and requires comparatively little evidence.
There are three different forms of Excessive Assessment…
- Overvaluation — A simple claim that your house has been overvalued.
- Incorrect Partial Exemption — Partial tax exemptions were overlooked during valuation.
- Excessive Transition — The 5-year transition assessment adopted by your village, town, or city overvalues your property.
A general overvaluation is the most common and successful grievance.
- Unlawful Assessment
If a property is completely exempt from taxation, yet has been valued by an assessor, it is deemed as an Unlawful Assessment. If you can prove that you have tax exemption for the property, all charges will be waived.
Approved assessing units are permitted to separate certain properties into two classes: homestead and non-homestead. If your property has been placed in the wrong class, you can file a Misclassification claim.
If you own property that is split into residential and non-residential areas, you may also file a claim if you feel the total value of both the homestead and non-homestead sections is incorrect.
Fallback Plan: SCAR (Small Claims Assessment Review)
If your claims have been denied by the Assessment Board, but you feel your argument stands, you can contest the decision in a small claims court — no attorneys required.
How To Grieve Your Taxes (Ways to Grieve Your Assessment) — Summing Up
As you can see, you have plenty of options if you feel that your property has been incorrectly valued, but do bear in mind that you only have a limited amount of time to file your complaint, so be sure to check your local taxation department’s grievance window.
The appeal process can be arduous, and finding the relevant evidence can be difficult, but if you have confidence in your claims and create a strong case, there’s no reason you wouldn’t be able to lower your property tax.