Thursday, March 3, 2011

Guest Post: How to Lower Your Property Taxes

Owning your own home has been a dream of many people since this country was conceived. It is a form of freedom--to be the Lord and Master of your own domain. Unfortunately, it is costing more and more to hold on to that dream. Property taxes are on the rise, with no sign of relief in sight. If you're like a lot of people, you're always looking for ways to lower your property taxes. These tips may help.

Who Levies Property Tax
In looking for ways to cut your tax burden, it's important to understand who makes the rules. Property taxes are generally levied on the local level, usually by a municipal or county assessor. The assessor uses a set of rules determined by the local government to place a monetary value on your property. A portion of that value is what you owe for your property tax. Using a complicated system of property value and improvement value, the amount is determined. It is usually somewhere in the neighborhood of .5% to 4%. Some states are less, others are more. If you feel you're being overcharged--i.e. you think your property is overvalued--there are steps you can take to try and lower the property tax.

Learn the Rules
The first thing you should do if you think your property is overvalued is to find out how the assessment was made. Learn the criteria that were used to determine the property value. The best way is to contact your local tax office and speak to the assessor directly, by phone or in person. Ask them to explain how they came to the conclusion they did--what their system is to assign a taxable value.

Check Their Work
After you've found out how your property was evaluated you need to go over the information and determine whether or not a mistake was made in valuing your property. If the assessor simply made an error, then you can appeal and more than likely have your evaluation reduced. If all the assessor's calculations are factually correct, the next step would be to look into the comps--properties of comparable value. Many municipalities use comps to assess the value of your property. If you feel the comps the assessor used are unrealistic you can challenge the appraisal.

File an Appeal
In order to prove the assessors valuation was incorrect, you will have to compile a list of comparable value properties you feel more accurately reflect your property's true value. You'll be expected to present your appeal to an appeals board and explain why you feel the evaluation was inaccurate. Contact real estate agents and tell them your problem. They will be an invaluable resource in finding comparable homes in your area that will prove your property was overvalued. Put together a file that contains all the information you gather, including pictures of your comps. If your appeal is granted and your taxes are lowered, the price you pay the real estate agent will be well worth it.

Tax Deductions
Even if your appeal is denied there are ways of lowering your property tax--well it may not actually lower the tax, but you'll save some money nonetheless. By doing certain home improvements you can claim them as deductions on your federal income tax, and possibly on state taxes as well. Ask your accountant or tax attorney for suggestions on ways to take advantage of any deductions that may be available. If spending the money on an improvement to your home will actually save you money in the long run, you'll get a double benefit from it--the initial tax deduction and the prolonged use of whatever improvements you make.

About the Author
Guest post from Bailey Harris, who writes about car insurance. If you are interested in writing a guest post, please contact PF Stock at the Email address listed in the sidebar.

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