Last week we took note of the great disparity in property tax rates from state to state with New Jersey levying an astounding $2,642 per citizen on the high end and Alabama charging its citizens an average of $477 by comparison. Now Investor’s Business Daily has taken that discussion a step further and singled out the rise in the number of property owners appealing their tax assessements.
I got wind of this development when I was contacted by Amy Reeves, a reporter from IBD’s Washington bureau. As I pointed out to her in the article, appraisal districts don’t operate in real time. Assessed values generally lag behind market activity, which means there’s a good possibility that your next tax assessment could be off the mark.
So what do you do if your tax bill seems too high? You file an appeal, and the basis for any effective appeal to an appraisal board is raw data. Not opinion. Not hearsay. Just the facts. Don’t get too worked up about this. It’s not rocket science. You can handle an appeal yourself. (I did.) Just dig up data on the sale of comparable properties. Or show up with figures on neighboring property that recently closed that support your position. The easiest of all? Use a current appraisal of your very own property. If you’ve just bought or just refinanced a piece of property, odds are you already have an appraisal on file. It’s by far your best bet.
But I’ve got to warn you, there’s one caveat to appealing your property taxes. The appeals process can come across as a very subective one – most boards are made up of citizens with no specialized training – but there is one hard and fast rule: the date. You must file your appeal according to the timetable that is specified in your tax assessment. This does not mean you need to have all your ducks in a row by this date; it only means that you plan to appeal. Miss the filing date, and the game is over. No ifs, ands, or buts.