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How to Properly Handle an Annual Property Tax Appeal


Annual property tax assessments are met with a range of emotions. Some commercial and homeowners will be unhappy with their tax assessment. Prices may not meet expectations, and if the owner doesn't view the value as "fair," then they do have the option of filing a property tax appeal.

The first step in the process is knowing the rules.

Appeal processes will vary in every state, so it's important for an attorney to know what they're up against in the appeals process.

React as Soon as a Reassessment is Made

Waiting to appeal property tax changes is not a good option. Reassessments are often for second-installment, so it may be possible to avoid paying the wrong tax rate completely. The issue, as is being seen in Cook County, is that an assessment is being made on the average sale prices between 2015 and 2017.

This was a time when home prices were rising, but it may not be reflective of a lower sales average in 2018.

So, if a reassessment increases rates in 2019, the assessment may be grossly inaccurate.

Laws are such that even if a property tax bill is in appeals, 55% of the previous year's bill must be paid in Cook County. The same laws may apply in other jurisdictions, and it's important that all taxpayers understand and make these payments as required by law.

Waiting to appeal the assessment is simply the costlier option.

Research Going Rates Before an Appeal

A reassessment doesn't mean that the tax assessor's office made an error. It's up to you, or an attorney, to determine if an error was made when adjusting your property tax rate. Researching local sale prices is a great start.

You can also bring certain information to the attention of the tax office:

  • Was the property for sale and didn't receive offers or received offers that indicate the true value of the home?
  • Was the property vacant for part or all of the year?
  • Was the property for sale?

Obtain comparable sales for all of the similar properties you can find. These comparable will be able to indicate what the going rate for the property will be. The assessor needs to have a complete view of the market, and this research on your behalf can definitely help.

Commercial properties will benefit from gathering capitalization rates, operating expenses and competitive rental rates.

Perhaps your properties rates are higher than others, and this would play a role in the overall property tax assessment. Rents for your property may be lower, or you may be in a market where the assessor missed your statistical model.

The property's condition will also play a role in its tax value.

The property may be dated, and since an assessor cannot visit every property, they may not know that your home or building hasn't been updated in decades. Value reductions may be granted if photographic proof is provided to the assessor to show the state of the property.

An appeal may be declined, but in most jurisdictions, the value cannot be increase. So, you'll have nothing to lose and everything to gain when filing an appeal. 

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