No one likes to pay property taxes, and with the possibility of the government ending or limiting the amount you can deduct on your federal tax return, property taxes are more odious than ever. But, even without the federal deduction, there are some things you can do to lower your tax bill, depending on which state you live in. Here’s a brief overview of some of your options by state:
Texas – Texas comes in at sixth place among the 10 worst, with an average rate of 1.9 percent. However, Texas has no state income tax, so property taxes are relied on to compensate.
New Jersey – Since Jersey’s property taxes are the highest in the country (according to The Balance, a tax research website), we’ll start with that state. It’s pretty simple. All one has to do is file an appeal with the tax board in your respective county within 45 days of the date your assessment was mailed. Whether you’re successful or not depends on your ability to convince the tax board that your property is not worth the price the tax assessor claims.
Illinois – From the same website, we learn that Illinois has the second-highest property taxes (2.3 percent to New Jersey’s 2.8 percent). However, in Illinois, an appeal is not simply an option; in some counties, it’s an absolute imperative. In Cook County (Chicago and surrounding area), for instance, assessments have been known to come in artificially high in anticipation of an appeal. Those who don’t appeal end up paying more than they need to.
We could go over each state, but the end result would be the same: If you want to lower your property taxes, you must file an appeal.
There are some essential tips for those who want to appeal, regardless of state or taxing district. For instance, you must not bury your head in the sand. No one is looking out for you here. Know when your property is being reassessed, and look at the itemized details of the assessment carefully. If they have you down for an extra bathroom, too much square footage, an extra garage space, etc., you can use that in your appeal. Of course, if the opposite is true, you appeal at your own risk.
Also, you need to make sure your assessment considers any and all exemptions to which you’re entitled. Different states have different exemptions, but most have discounts for senior citizens and long-time homeowners. Some even have exemptions for childless couples, since most property taxes are used for schools.
Finally, make sure your home is being compared to other homes in the same tax classification.
A piece of this length cannot possibly cover all the different varieties of property taxes, but in general, the same tips apply. And the states that try to wring the most money out of their residents are usually just as greedy with their business taxes. The appeals process is generally similar as well.
The bottom line is this: Appealing property taxes can be complicated because the tax laws and assessment processes can be complex and, to the layperson, obtuse. For these reasons, it’s highly recommended that you engage a pro (as in a property tax consultant or property tax attorney) who specializes in property tax appeals. They know the laws, they know the ropes, and your net cost will be zero, since they will charge you a percentage of your tax savings. But beyond cost, you’ll know that you’ve exhausted every available option in your quest to lower your property taxes. That alone is worth a lot. You may not get the reduction you hoped for, but at least you won’t have left your hard-earned money on the table — the tax table.
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