Challenging your property taxes

August 5, 2010 9:53:11 PM PDT
With home values way down, Consumer Reports says you may be paying more in property taxes than you need to. That's particularly true if you bought your home in the last three years. Nationally, about a third of the people who challenge their taxes see some savings, according to the nonprofit National Taxpayers Union.

Consumer Reports says to dispute your property taxes, you have to establish that the town's assessment of your home is too high. There are a couple of ways you can make your case: You can either show that your home isn't as big or as nice as what the assessment states, or you can show that your home's value isn't in line with comparable properties.

Your tax office is your first stop, to see how homes are assessed. Then you will know what to focus on. You can hire an appraiser to do it for several hundred dollars. Or you could try it on your own. You can go to your town hall and look at public records of comparable properties, or you can ask a real-estate agent to help you.

Also check that the records on your house, such as the number of baths and bedrooms, are correct. If not, the assessor may have your property valued too high.

Consumer Reports says that a good way to tell whether it's worth challenging your property taxes is if your home's value has gone down recently by at least 10 percent.

If you're considering a tax challenge, Consumer Reports says it's important to continue to pay your taxes in full until your case is decided. And if you're considering hiring an attorney to take the matter to court, you'll want to balance that cost against any possible savings.

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