Taxes might be inevitable and unavoidable, but sometimes they're shrinkable. That's often the case with property taxes.
First, understand that while your municipality is probably responsible for assessing your property and levying a tax against it, that doesn't mean that you have to accept the results. You can often challenge the assessed value of your home and, by changing the value, change your tax bill. Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union was cited in a Money magazine article noting that more than half of those who appeal a property assessment value get it reduced, because "assessments can be rather arbitrary."
They can also be riddled with errors. There are all kinds of simple little inaccuracies that can have a major impact on what your tax bill is. Did the assessor use correct measurements for your home's size? Are the numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms correct? Is your basement unfinished but counted as livable space? Is a garage being counted when you have no garage?
Another way to ferret out errors is to compare your property's assessed value with similar properties in the same area. Check recent sales prices, or talk with neighbors. If your assessed value is $250,000 but a substantially similar property was just sold for $190,000, you may have a good case. (Often, a local real estate agent may be willing to help you find recent sales values.)
Once you're ready, how do you go about appealing? Well, you typically don't need to take anyone to court. Often, a simple visit to the assessors' office will do. If you can provide proof of an error, you're likely to get a rapid reduction. (Of course, if you're stretching things to make your case, you might not succeed, or worse, you might end up with a higher valuation and a bigger tax bill.)
It's enough to make an investor wish that she could appeal the valuations of the stocks in her portfolio, comparing Coca-Cola's
But back to property. You can learn more about the ins and outs of buying or selling a home in our Home Center, which also features special mortgage rates. Also, visit our Buying or Selling a Home and Building/Maintaining a Home discussion boards to get some great insights and tips from fellow Fools.
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article, though she wishes she did.