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Friday, August 18, 2017

Is Your Property Tax Bill Too High?

We received several calls after the tax valuation post cards were sent out by the Maricopa County Assessor last year. The home and land owners were surprised to see how much their property taxes had increased from the previous year. In 2005, properties spiked in value due to the strong seller’s market. Inventory was low and demand was high due to the investor activity and the attraction to buy real estate in a climate of a rapidly increasing real estate values. These briskly rising real estate values were not immediately adjusted in the taxes being assessed by the county. When the county finally caught up on the reassessing of real estate taxes, it reflected the values of the market in 2005. We all know that the market since then has shifted dramatically to reflect values sometimes 30 to 50 percent below the values of 2005; however the taxes have been assessed to reflect values of the market when it was at the peak.

Home values are down and in many cases the taxes have increased beyond the current value of our real estate.

The National Taxpayers Union estimates that as many as 60 percent of homes are assessed for too high of a value, resulting in an incorrectly inflated property tax bill. There is a good chance you are in the group of people paying too much and investing some time into reviewing your tax evaluation might pay off.

In Maricopa County, property valuations go out in the mail in February. If you do not receive a valuation in the mail, contact the Maricopa County Assessor’s office, 391 West Jefferson or via telephone at 602-506-3406. Review the information carefully. Check to see that the square footage, number of bed and bathrooms are correct; it is very common when I am reviewing tax records to find incorrect information. If there is incorrect information, the county may change the assessment with out a formal appeal. If your property has been valued incorrectly or classified incorrectly, you may petition the assessor for review within 60 days of the notice date. If the only issue is you disagree with the valuation, the next step is to gather data.

If you have a current appraisal, take a moment to review it. Look at the homes the appraiser used as comparable homes to yours and the value the appraiser gave your home. Ask a real estate agent that specializes in your neighborhood to give you a list of homes that have recently sold in your area that are similar to yours. Compare their current values to the value placed on your home by the assessor. This information will need to be included as part of the appeal process if you decide to appeal your taxes yourself.

The appeal has to be filed in the year that you received the February valuation and must be filed before December 15th of that year. If a recent appeal has been made and denied, the appeal must be filed within 60 days of that decision. The procedures and instructions for filing a small claims property tax evaluation appeal can be found on line at www.maricopa.gov/ASSESSOR/PropertyValueAppeals.aspx.

There are companies that will do this for you, usually for a fee that is a percentage of the amount they save you.

If the county adjusts the taxes, it can only be adjusted for the year you appealed as the valuation they will not go back to previous years and adjust.

The process requires three forms. The first is a cover sheet that includes the owner’s information, names, addresses and county where they live. Also, state the fact that you are representing yourself in this appeal. Next, they will want your name as the defendant and the county where the property is located and your signature. The second page contains more contact information and your parcel number. You will place an X on the box that tells the court if the property is your primary residence, a rental or a second residence. Include the value assigned by the assessor and the year assessed. Next list the reasons you think the assessed value is too high and then write in the dollar amount you believe it should be. You will need to submit copies of these documents to the Clerk of Court along with a fee of $142. If your property exceeds $1 million or is not classified as class three residential property, you must file your appeal in the regular court and it is known as a “Record” Tax Case. In this case, it is more expensive and there is not an approved self-help form available which makes it strongly advisable to consult a lawyer or tax professional. Keep a copy for yourself and send three copies to the Clerk of the Superior Court with a self addressed stamped envelope so that they can return a confirmed copy to you. If you do not include the return envelope, you will not receive back the confirmed copy, which acts as proof of your filings.

Less than seven percent of all property owners ever attempt to seek a reduction in their property taxes. It is a simple process and could save you hundreds of dollars. It is definitely worth taking the time to review your tax bill when you receive it in February.

Contact your real estate agent for information to help you along in this process.

Carlie Back is a South Mountain District resident and real estate agent with local firm Keller Williams Lifestyle Realty. Email her with questions at carlie@carlieback.com

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