When tax time rolls around, many homeowners are surprised at the amount of property tax they owe. If you disagree with the stated value of your property, it’s worth a closer look to see if your bill has increased fairly. Statistics vary by area, but experts estimate that between 30 and 60 percent of taxable property in the United States is over-assessed, and this leads to higher property tax bills. Yet typically fewer than 5 percent of taxpayers challenge their assessments, even though the majority who do so win at least a partial victory when properly prepared. Are your property taxes too high?
To be sure you’re not paying more than you should, check the following factors.
First, verify that there are no mistakes on your property card — a document that records information such as dimensions, acreage and value. Errors like these can — and do — occur, and they’re actually quite common. But you won’t know about discrepancies if you haven’t seen your home’s card and reviewed it carefully. Get a copy at the town hall, bringing any errors to the immediate attention of the assessor
After you pull your home’s property card, take a look at a few of your neighbors’ cards — specifically, neighbors who have homes that are similar to yours in terms of age, size, style, condition and location. How do their assessments line up with yours?
There is often a cap on the maximum amount that property taxes on primary residences may be increased — but it’s up to you to make sure you’re being protected by it. For example, California’s constitution mandates that property taxes on primary residences cannot exceed 1% of the property’s market value and that the assessed taxable value of a property cannot go up by more than 2% a year unless the property is sold — regardless of how much the property may increase in value in market terms.
Are you taking advantage of special exemptions? Some states offer tax reductions for veterans, the disabled, and senior citizens. Some also provide reductions for historic buildings and special energy-efficient systems. Ask about these — and other incentives for tax reductions — that you may be eligible for. It’s worth a shot.