The Steps We Take When Fighting Our Property Taxes

Posted on February 16, 2012 by

Lowering Your Property TaxesHow would you like to pay zero property taxes?  Think before you answer.  If everyone paid zero property taxes, then we can say goodbye to silly things like schools, roads, policemen, firemen, EMTs, etc.  So, do you still want to pay zero property taxes? 

Most of us don’t mind paying our fair share – we understand the benefits.  It’s just that we don’t want to pay more than our fair share.  So here are the steps Kim and I take if we think our property taxes are overly high.

The process begins with a visit to our county’s Tax Assessor’s office. They are a wealth of what-to-do information.

The “Tax Assessors” are misnamed.  They should be called “Property Appraisers.”  These hard-working folks don’t set your property tax rates.  They simply determine the current fair market value of each property that gets taxed in the county.  What kind of property gets taxed?  Things like real estate, mobile homes, automobiles, trailers, planes, boats, etc.

I’m guessing that a bunch of years ago, a government weasel stuck the county appraisers with the title “Tax Assessors” in an attempt to take the heat off elected officialswho are the ones who actually set tax rates.  At tax time, this weasel-move has made the Tax Assessor’s office the bad guys and our elected officials – “I’m fighting to lower your taxes!” – the heroes.  Bottom line: Be nice to the folks who work in the Assessor’s office.  They have very difficult jobs and work their tails off! 

A couple of things to remember: 1) The value of the property being taxed is set on January 1st of that tax year.  Any evidence you present to prove your case must come from BEFORE January 1st of that tax year.  2) The sooner you start the process, the better.  3) Be nice!

STEP 1: We get a copy of our Property Record Card from the Assessor’s office.  This lists the information about the property being taxed.  In some cases, we find errors on the tax card.  For example, the card for a property we managed on Elm Street showed that the home had a garage.  Fact is, the garage had been removed several years before.  Correcting this information allowed us to lower our property tax bill.

STEP 2: We file a Return long before the April 1st deadline.  With the Return, we include our evidence showing why we think the property’s value is too high.  Usually, when handing in our Return, we’ve made an appointment and meet face-to-face with a county appraiser.  This gives us an excellent opportunity to discuss our case.  Most times, after our information is verified, the case is resolved quickly, easily and fairly.

STEP 3: In July, for real estate, we receive an Annual Notice of Assessment for each property we control.  This notice shows the property’s fair market value as of January 1st of that year.  It also shows the previous year’s millage rate and the estimated amount of property taxes owed.  (NOTE: The year’s millage rate isn’t set until later in the year.) 

If we still disagree with the property’s fair market value, we file an immediate Appeal.  As with a Return, when we hand in our Appeal, we meet with a county appraiser to discuss our case.  This meeting resolves 99% of all outstanding issues.

STEP 4: If we can’t come to a mutual agreement with the Assessor’s office about a property’s fair market value, our next stop is in front of the Board of Equalization.  Standing in front of the Board ranks zero on the Fun Meter and around one hundred on the Stress Meter!

Basically, you present your evidence trying to prove your case.  Then the Assessor’s office presents their evidence.  A few days later, you find out the result of your Appeal.

Over the years, we’ve learned that it saves time, is more effective and makes more sense to resolve our issues with the Assessor’s office very early on.  We’ve not had to appear in front of the Board of Equalization since 2009.

What type of results have we had following this strategy?  Since 2006, our win-loss record is 55 for 63 – not bad for a couple of mom-and-pop investors.  Fighting our property taxes has saved us thousands and thousands of dollars!  Last year alone – 2011 – we were 17 for 17 and saved almost $3,800 in taxes!

We hope this information helps you to better understand what to do if you think your property taxes are too high.

If you want to learn how to successfully fight your property taxes, join us at our February real estate investor’s meeting. For more information about it, just visit our website.

Bill & Kim CookBill & Kim Cook are a husband and wife real estate investing team. They live in Adairsville, Georgia and have been investing in real estate since 1995. They specialize in buying single-family homes, mobile homes and mobile home parks. They also run North Georgia REIA and teach folks how to successfully invest in real estate.

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