If you received an unusually high property tax bill, don’t be afraid to fight back. Here’s how to effectively question your tax appraisal and file an appeal.
Taxing authorities have two ways to boost tax revenue. One is to raise the tax rates. Typically, several local entities each has its own tax rate, which is then totaled and combined into one tax bill. (The county government, school districts, community colleges and county hospitals may all have different rates.)
Even if rates aren’t raised, the county appraisal district can increase revenue by raising valuations. It will assess what it thinks the market value of your home should be. Some states have a maximum percentage that the value of a personal home, or homestead, can be raised over the previous year. If the new market value exceeds that cap, the appraisal will be reduced to bring the assessed value into line.
Read your appraisal notice carefully. Note the market value for your house and the appraised or assessed value. Pay attention to how much time you have to file a protest. Set aside time to gather documentation to support your appeal.
On the county tax appraisal website, look up your property and submit a protest form online. Or use the form enclosed in the mailing you received. When you file a protest notice online, you may have the option to upload documents, such as comparable sales, to support your case. In some counties, an appraiser can review your online protest and offer a compromise value without ever having to meet.
The protest form should have choices for why you believe your house is overvalued, such as “surpasses market value,” “value unequal compared to other properties” and “description is incorrect.” Check all that apply, based on your research.
If you believe the market value of the home is too high or unequal to comparable properties, have a real estate agent provide you with sales data in your area in the last year. Focus on houses that are most like yours. If you bought the house within the last year at a price below the county appraisal, show them your closing statement. If you have a private, professional appraisal that is lower, submit it.
If the county appraisal’s square footage is substantially off, file for a correction. If your house has damage detracting from the value, such as foundation or roof problems, send pictures and a professional estimate of the cost to repair.
The county likely will schedule two hearings — one to present your case and a second, which is a formal protest hearing before a board.
Professional tax protest firms are available. After providing all of your property information and supporting documentation, these firms will represent you before the county. Typically, the company is paid only if it’s successful in getting a reduction in valuation and subsequent taxes. The fee is customarily a percentage of the amount saved.