Think Your Property Tax Bill Is Too High? Here's What You Can Do

A: It's important to note that homeowners cannot contest their property tax rate, but they can lower the assessed value of their home by filing an official appeal. Only 2 to 3 percent of homeowners attempt an appeal, Hobson said, adding that 20 to 40 percent of appeals were successful.

Homeowners who believe their property has been assessed too high should try to arrange an informal evaluation with the assessor's office in their municipality.

If the assessor doesn't grant the meeting -- or if the assessment isn't adjusted as a result of the meeting -- homeowners should then pursue a formal appeals process. That entails finding out when the assessment review board meets and scheduling an appeal, Hobson said.

Some municipalities review appeals by mail only, so find out how your municipality conducts the process.

Don't forget that you many have only 60 days to appeal an assessment once you receive it, she said.

Once a formal appeal has been filed, a decision is rendered usually within a few weeks. If you aren't successful, you may be able to go to court.

Q: Do I qualify for property tax exemptions?

A: Property tax exemptions can lower the assessed value of a residence. Depending on your state, these exemptions could save you hundreds of dollars, if not more.

Exemptions apply for certain special groups, such as veterans, the disabled and certain volunteers. Exemptions aren't automatic, so you must apply for them.

You can get more details about these exemptions from your assessor's office.

Web-extra Tips:

Here's some extra advice from Hobson about how you should appeal your property tax assessment:

• Before you decide to appeal your tax assessment, make sure you understand all the fees. Due to the increase in appeals, some municipalities now impose appeal filing fees to cover the cost of the process.

• Pay close attention when you examine your property record, especially if you filed a permit for a renovation. Many times assessors will assume that since you filed a permit, the renovation was done, and they'll increase your assessed value accordingly. If you did not go through with the renovation, inform the assessor's office.

• Beware of scam artists who promise to help you lower your taxes. If a service asks for a large fee, or their promised reduction seems way too high, then these are definite red flags.

• When you appear for an informal or formal appeal don't get emotional or go off on tangents about your dislike for taxes. The best way to get through to reviewers is to make sure your presentation is short, to the point, and relates only to your situation.

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