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Property Taxes 101 – Saving Money and Making Cents of Assessments

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By Barry Sharpe

RISMEDIA, July 29, 2010—Property owners prepared with research and information can save thousands of dollars on their property taxes. Following the simple steps outlined by Barry Sharpe, President of South Florida-based Property Tax Appeal Group (P-Tag), one can help property owners keep money in their pockets and assess property values on target.

Once a property owner has received his estimated property taxes in the mail and determined that the property has been unfairly evaluated, the first step is to file a petition with the local government to appeal the estimated taxes. Being educated about appeal deadlines is essential because more often than not, the window for appeals is short. For example, in Florida, all appeals must be filed within 25 days of mailing of the notices of proposed taxes for the year. Since this is one of the shortest statutes of limitations, Florida property taxpayers are advised to not procrastinate in filing their appeals so they don’t miss out on savings.

The next step is to look at your property with a critical eye. Leave your personal connection to the property at the door and pretend you are a potential buyer looking for reasons not to buy the property. Walk inside and outside taking notes about flaws on the property or things that don’t look right. For example, while you might be okay with a roof that has a small leak or is missing some roof shingles, those are problems that a potential buyer would cite as reasons for a sale price reduction. Keep in mind that the goal of this exercise is to identify reasons why your property is worth less than what your government claims it is worth—thus, it is in your best interest to be thorough and honest about weaknesses in your property.

Once you have compiled your list of flaws, the next step is to do the research. Go down your list of flaws, call and obtain free, written repair estimates for each of the problems you find at your property. Under the theory of “Deferred Maintenance,” even if you don’t do the repair, you can still use the estimates as evidence why your property’s value should again be reduced the next year you file for another appeal.

The County uses a mass appraisal approach to determine the value of a property and the actual condition of the property is one of the factors that come into play. However, often times, due to lack of funding or manpower, the County is unable to inspect each property. Therefore, doing your own research in identifying property challenges can be used to the property owners advantage when it comes to arguing for reductions in taxes.

Another way to argue for reductions in your taxes is to accurately convey the amount of crime that takes place in your neighborhood. Contact your local police department and ask for a “Crime Grid” within a certain radius from your property. This added information can sometimes be persuasive as to why your property should be worth less than properties in safer communities.

The final step is to educate yourself about how the appeals process works. Find out where and when the property tax appeal hearings are held. Attend, watch and learn how they are conducted and you might learn some additional methods on how to reduce your property taxes.

Barry Sharpe is president of South Florida-based Property Tax Appeal Group, LLC (PTAG). Visit them online at http://www.ptagflorida.com/

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