"The Tax Man Cometh..." (Berlin Patton Ebling, Attorneys)
There's an old saying - there are two types of people who complain about taxes: men and women. Well, it's the end of August, and that means that County property appraisers across the state have recently mailed out Notices of Proposed Property Taxes, or TRIM notices, to all owners of real property in their County. And that gives everyone a great reason to complain about their taxes. Luckily, if property owners feel that the assessed value of their property is too high, they can do more than just complain about their taxes - they can appeal them!
There are two formal means to appeal property taxes - both run on a pretty short fuse, so it is vitally important that property owners review their TRIM notices immediately upon receipt, and decide whether they intend to take any action. First: an informal method of appeal - any property owner can request an informal conference with their property appraiser's office to discuss the valuation of their property, and to present any information that they believe may impact that valuation. Remember: you know a lot more about the specifics of your property than the property appraiser does, and your specific information may impact the value assigned to your property. For instance - did you just discover that your foundation is cracked through and through? Did you experience a flood that will require tens of thousands of dollars to remediate? Those are issues that may not be apparent to the property appraiser, but may seriously impact the value of your property. Remember that the property is appraised as of January 1 of the year in which you received your TRIM notice, so you will need to be able to present evidence of its value as of that date.
Your first formal method of appeal is the filing of a petition to the local Value Adjustment Board (VAB). This type of appeal must be filed within 25 days of the date that your TRIM Notice was mailed to you. That's right, your clock is ticking as you read this. Once you file your petition with the VAB, you will be assigned a hearing date, and will have the opportunity to request from the property appraiser the documents that they will rely upon at the hearing. You will have the opportunity to present evidence of your own at the hearing to demonstrate that your property's value is lower than it was assessed at.
Did you miss the VAB appeal deadline? Not to worry, you still have one remaining avenue of appeal. Within 60 days of the date that your assessment is certified for collection (or within 60 days of the date that a decision was rendered by the VAB, if you took that route), you are permitted to file an action in the Circuit Court challenging the assessment. This is usually the only realistic method of appeal for complex issues, because it will take some time to develop the strong evidence that is needed to prove that the proposed assessment is incorrect. In a lawsuit, you are allowed to subpoena witnesses, and to present your own expert testimony to show why the property appraiser's assessment is incorrect.
Speaking of experts: remember, the property appraiser is an expert at what they do. They have volumes of knowledge about local properties and market trends, and they maintain a great database of properties. For that reason, it is important that you have an expert on your side if you decide to go toe-to-toe to challenge your assessment. If you feel that your proposed property tax assessment is off, you should contact your local real estate attorney to discuss further. I'll leave you with a quote from Arthur Godfrey: "I'm proud to be paying taxes in the United States. The only thing is, I could be just as proud for half the money!"
Berlin Patten Ebling, PLLC
Article Authored by Dan Guarnieri, Esq.