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When Should You Consider Filing a Tax Appeal?

Are you considering filing a tax appeal because you believe that your real estate tax assessment is higher than the fair market value of your property? When is a good time to begin looking at your tax assessment to decide whether you should file a tax appeal?

By statute, tax appeals must be filed by April 1 of each year for an appeal challenging the assessment for that year. In some cases, the filing date is extended to May 1 in those municipalities which conducted a reassessment or revaluation. If you have questions about the filing date, it is best to check with the Tax Board for the county in which the property is located as to the correct filing date. Unfortunately, too many people wait until the last minute and then are rushed as to whether to file. In some cases they file only to find that they should not have filed in the first place.

Long before you file the appeal, you should perform some investigation as to whether you have grounds for filing an appeal. In cases where you think your taxes are excessive, you must know that the only appeal which you can take is whether your tax assessment is higher than the market value of the property in question. By statute, the tax assessor must advise you in writing as to the assessed value of the property at the beginning of each year. In most cases this is by way of a "post card" type notice mailed in February. Of course, if you do not want to wait until February, you can always call the tax assessor's office in the town in which the property is located to inquire as to the assessed value.

Next, you should compare the assessed value against the market value of the property. The old saying in tax appeals is: "Would you sell your property for the assessed value?" If the answer is "No, my property is worth more than the assessment," then you probably do not have grounds for filing a tax appeal.

If on the other hand, you believe that your assessment is in excess of your property value, you should seek to retain a state licensed or certified real estate appraiser. An appraiser will look at the sales of other comparable properties and then provide you with an appraisal showing the market of your property. With this in hand, you will know whether you should file a tax appeal.

If you determine that the appraised value of your property is less than the assessed value, then you should consider filing a tax appeal. Since you will need to present an appraisal as part of your appeal, you are a step ahead because you have already obtained an appraisal.

So, when is the time for considering whether to file a tax appeal? I would say that you should start the process early in the year, January or February. In this way, you can make an intelligent decision as to whether you should file a tax appeal and still have sufficient time to prepare the information necessary to file the appeal.

The filing of a tax appeal is a legal filing and if you do not understand the tax appeal process, it is best to consult an attorney who does. The law firm of R.C. Shea and Associates has represented many property owners in tax appeal cases.