Should You Appeal Your Property Tax Assessment? 6 Helpful Steps to Follow

By Chika


Last Updated: February 11, 2023


Property taxes have gone up over the past few years.

The median tax bill for a U.S. homeowner in 2021 was $3,785, which is more than 8% higher than it was in 2019.

This year, homeowners' bills could go up because of things like:

  • the higher assessed value of their homes
  • less money coming in from local governments
  • the end of some federal stimulus programs

These higher bills come at a time when inflation is still high and economic uncertainty is getting worse.

But there is one thing you can do: challenge your assessment. This is done by showing the tax assessor who is in charge of your home that it is worth less than what they have put on it.

In this article, we'll walk you through the process of appealing your property tax assessment. 



6 Steps to Appealing Your Property Tax Assessment

1. Review your assessment for errors.

Local governments do assessments of all the property they tax every so often.

When your new assessment comes in the mail, it will include information about your property, like the size of your lot or a legal description, as well as how much your house and land are worth.

Most of the time, your property tax bill is worked out by multiplying your home's assessed value by the local tax rate, which can be different from town to town.

Once you get your assessment, look it over to make sure the information is correct. This includes your:

  • square footage
  • the size of your lot
  • any extras like a pool

If you think the value of your home is too high, you should challenge it right away.

Tell the person doing the annual assessment about the mistake before the assessment is done. Most taxing authorities give you less than 30 days to do this, but each one sets its deadline. Often, the steps are written on the back of the letter.


2. Note the appeal deadline.

Your new assessment should tell you how to appeal the decision.

Most of the time, you have a certain amount of time to file an appeal. Sometimes, you only have a few weeks. Keep in mind that the deadline to file an appeal is different in each county.

For example, property owners in Cook County, Illinois, only have 30 days after getting their new property assessment to file an appeal, while homeowners in Fulton County, Georgia, where Atlanta is located, have 45 days. Appeal deadlines can be very short, so you may need to act quickly.

3. Get a third-party assessment.

When you go before the appeals board, it can help to have professional appraisers on your side.

A comparable market analysis is usually done by a real estate agent in your area who knows your market. This will help you figure out if it's worth what it's worth on the market. Many real estate agents will do this for free because it helps their business.


4. Use your town's average as a benchmark.

First, it's important to know that a higher property assessment doesn't always mean a higher tax bill.

This is because new assessments are usually made so that they do not affect tax revenue. This means that a city or town can't get more tax money from the new assessments.

Instead, what matters is whether your assessment has gone up by a higher percentage than the average increase for your town or county as a whole.

For example, let's say that your county's assessments went up by 40%, but yours went up by less than that. This means that your taxes went down. If the value of your home went up by more than 40%, this means your taxes went up.

You can also look at recent sales of similar properties in your area on sites like Zillow, Trulia, and to get a sense of how much they are worth. You might get the most up-to-date information from real estate agents in your area.

Knowing the average property assessment tax of your area enables you to have a benchmark to measure against. 


5. Appeal your assessment.

If the independent assessments show that your property is worth less than the assessed value, ask to meet with the local tax assessor and request for your property to be reassessed.

The appeals process differs for each taxing authority. You can get information about the process from the letter about your tax bill or on the website of the authority. If the assessor comes to your house, be sure to point out any problems, like water damage, that could make it worth less.

Don't talk about taxes with the assessor, because he or she can't change your tax rate. By complaining about your taxes, you miss the real issue, which is how much your home is worth.


6. Take advantage of exemptions.

You can also look into tax-relief programs and try to get the assessed value of a home changed.

The type and availability of these programs depend on the state and county in which you live. Some places, like Fairfax County, Virginia, and Travis County, Texas, help veterans or their spouses who are deployed or who are disabled.

There are programs for seniors in several cities and towns. In the property-tax database of the Lincoln Institute, there is a list of programs from all over the country.

Property Tax-Aide is a service from AARP in which volunteers help people apply for property tax relief. Nine states and the District of Columbia offer this free program.



Check if it is worth your time

Sometimes the effort to appeal your property tax assessment may not be worth your time.

If the difference in tax assessment is little, or if it costs you more money to appeal the process compared to how much increment has been made on your property tax, then appealing the process may not be worth it at all.

You have to consider not only the monetary implications, but also the time you would have to forgo to when appealing the process. 



When not to appeal

On average, about 4% of homeowners appeal their property taxes.

The amount that Americans save when they appeal will vary wildly across states and counties, and in some places, it is often not worth appealing. 

For example, since all of California is subject to no more than a 2% annual limit on property-tax assessment increases and most metro areas in California have grown much more quickly than this over the past few decades, most residential property is under-assessed and therefore unlikely to benefit from an appeal.

Some states only reassess properties on a biennial, triennial, or on an even less frequent basis. On average, the benefit of an appeal declines the further out you are from the last assessment date.

Photo by RODNAE Productions



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