There’s an old adage that you can’t fight city hall, but that’s not necessarily true when it comes to property taxes. City government bureaucrats may not enjoy having their computations questioned, but that doesn’t mean that you should have to pay a higher tax bill. While property tax calculations are rather simple — most people could determine them using the calculator on their phones — mistakes can happen. But what’s more common than mathematical errors is an overvaluation of a property. If you believe that your taxes are higher than they should be for your property, there are things you can do. We’ll explore them in this article.
How Property Taxes are Calculated
If you’re questioning your property tax bill, it might be helpful to understand how a city or county calculates property taxes. Taxes are calculated by subtracting any exemptions from the assessed value of your home and multiplying the difference by the millage rate:
(Assessed Value – Exemptions) x Millage Rate = Property Taxes
- Assessed Value – This is an approximation of the market value of your home. Like an appraisal, it’s largely based on location, size of your home, size of your lot, the condition of your home, and the sales price of other homes in your area.
- Exemptions – Certain states give tax breaks to residents, military veterans, students, and senior citizens. A homestead exemption is a common one that allows you to deduct a certain dollar amount from the assessed value of your home if you live on that property.
- Millage Rate – This is a percentage that’s applied to determine your taxes. For instance, if your millage rate is .0015 or .15%, it would be $15 for every $1000 of the property value.
Valid Reasons to Request a Reassessment
If you’re looking to lower your property taxes, your best bet is to request a reassessment. Your mileage rate may be misapplied, but if this isn’t the case, you’re probably not going to have much success in getting the millage rate for the entire municipality reduced. The assessed value of your property, on the other hand, maybe reduced through a reassessment or by applying for exemptions. Here are some valid reasons to request a reassessment:
- The assessed value of your property is higher than similar properties in your area.
- The real estate market has driven down the price of the property in your area.
- You have a recent appraisal showing a lower value than the assessed value of your property. (The opposite is usually true).
- The condition of your property makes it less valuable than other similar properties in your area. This may be tricky if your property has code violations.
- You believe that the assessor made a material mistake with regard to your property.
- An accident, fire, or weather incident has caused damage diminishing the value of your property.
How to Approach the Tax Office About Your Property
Most municipalities have an appeals process for contesting the assessed value of your property. Naturally, they are reticent to invite appeals, as this creates extra work and, presumably, won’t favor the city. If you are unsure about how to start the process, there are attorneys who specialize in this area of the law.
In northern Pennsylvania, visit hoegenlaw.com.