Last week we received our annual home appraisal notice from the county.
Two days later, we got the first in a series of mailings from folks who want to help us protest that assessment.
Some of the offers are quite elaborate, like the mailer from
Texas Protax. That company's flier, the cover of which is pictured
below, assures us that it s the "largest and most successful property
tax representation firm in Central Texas."
Even better, if we don't save money on our tax bill, we don't have to pay.
However, if we do get a break on our tax bill, 40
percent of those savings will go to Protax.
A national process: As I noted, this was just the first such solicitation. And we're not alone.
In addition to our neighbors getting the same come-ons, it's a
process that happens nationwide.
In Seeking Lower Property Taxes on a House of Sinking Value in today's New York Times, Alina Tugend writes:
It seems as if every week I get a postcard or letter that reads something like this: "Save money by reducing your property tax. 100 percent risk-free. No Reduction, No Risk." ... Challenging property taxes is becoming a national sport, as homeowners contend they are paying too much as their houses decline in value. Some, too, have lost their jobs or have seen their salaries cut and can no longer afford their hefty property taxes.
Here in the Austin area, we aren't suffering as much as other
places with overpriced homes.
Our valuation is substantially lower than last year's. While that's a blow to the old home-owning ego, I'm definitely not complaining.
Plus, this year's assessment is still more than what we paid for the place five years ago and well above what we owe on our mortgage.
So we won't be taking advantage of the offers from Texas Protax and similar companies.
A detailed, but not impossible task: Even if we were so inclined to protest our property tax valuation, I'd probably take the advice that Peter Sepp, executive vice president of the Alexandria., Va.-based National Taxpayers Union, gave Tugend:
The appeals process is so simple that homeowners shouldn't pay anyone to do it.
In fact, along with our appraisal was a legal-sized insert, covered front and back with instructions on how to appeal. Such "here's how to challenge us" info is standard procedure in most property tax assessments.
The key first step is making sure you meet the deadline to
protest your property tax assessment. Miss that date and you're out of
Then you need to track down at least five other comparable
properties to see how your home's value stacks up against them.
And be sure, even if your appraisal is way out of whack, that you pay your tax bill if it comes due while you're still going through the appeal process. If you don't pay, the county will place you in default. When all's said and done, if you win, you'll get refund or credit for your overpaid taxes.
If you didn't get how-to-appeal information from your appraiser, or you lost the material, check with that office or its website. Today's Times story also outlines the steps to appeal a property tax appraisal and you can find more do-it-yourself details here.
- Fighting rising property taxes
- Real estate values fuel property tax fights
- Property tax appeals on the rise
- How do your property taxes stack up?
- Texas seniors being denied tax deferrals
- Property tax time for all!
- Politicians property tax problems
- Property tax problems for Charles Rangel
- McCain's 8-house property tax lesson
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