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1 in 4 Americans Have Challenged Property Taxes

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on July 08, 2011 9:47 AM

A new FindLaw.com survey has shown that about 1 in 4 Americans have challenged their property tax. And the result? Often, a property tax reduction.

The survey found that around 24% of the homeowners asked had challenged their property assessments at some point of their home ownership. And, around 75% of those who challenged their assessment found their property tax reduced as a result.

The net reduction in the property tax was between 1 and 4%. As a home owner, what do you need to do to challenge your property assessment and get a similar reduction in your property tax bill?

Most homeowners may not realize that they are usually allowed to meet with the assessor to discuss their case. Discussing the case with the assessor may result in a reduced bill, but homeowners need to be well-armed with evidence to support their case.

Before meeting with the assessor, gathering materials and documentation is crucial. One such method would be to scrutinize the records you do have and see if there are any discrepancies to the assessor's report. For example, have they accidentally added an additional room, or are they mistakenly calculating the tax based on a different tax authority? Or, look to see if the appraisal documents are missing information that has impact on the value of the home. Was there a recent pest infestation? Has there been damage to the property due to weather?

And, another method of obtaining evidence is by finding out the sale price of neighboring properties. If neighboring properties are all selling at way below your valuation, perhaps your house is valued too highly. Most of this information is publicly available.

Keep in mind, however, that in most jurisdictions you will be required to continue to pay the tax as-is while your challenge is pending. And, if you simply cannot afford to pay the tax bill, financial hardships is usually not something that can be presented as evidence to reduce your rates.

While a challenged property tax assessment may result in a property tax reduction, being well-informed and organized about the evidence you have is vitally important in getting that reduction.

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