The subject of property taxes is not one that breeds enthusiasm. When your taxes are doing their job, they are providing excellent school districts for your children and fixing potholes that you’ve bounced through a hundred times. In short, your property taxes fund local improvements.
And while no amount of tax information could be considered awe-inspiring, we want to ensure you’re in-the-know. Specifically, we want to answer your questions about who pays property taxes and when, who qualifies for a homestead exemption, and how to challenge your property tax assessment. Because one thing we know for absolute sure is, property taxes are coming due! You can run but you can’t … not pay.
Do you own your home? Are you a landlord who owns rental property? If you own property, then you have to pay property tax. Your property tax differs by state as your local government determines your tax rate. Be thankful you don’t live in New Jersey.
For most homeowners who have elected escrow during the mortgage process, your property tax is already included in your monthly mortgage payment (along with principal, interest and homeowner’s insurance). Your lender likely took your annual property tax amount and divided it by 12 to determine your monthly payment.
For those of you who own your home outright and/or have no mortgage, you are responsible for arranging to pay your property taxes each year. But how much must you pay and when are they due?
If you live in Texas, your average property tax rate is 1.83% and taxes are due October 1, 2019 and considered delinquent after February 1, 2020.
If you live in Arkansas, your average property tax rate is 0.63% and your 2019 taxes are due October 15, 2020, but you can start payments in March.
If you live in Alabama, you may want to do a little happy dance. Your average tax rate is 0.33% (one of the lowest in the country!) and your taxes are due October 1, 2019 and considered delinquent after December 31.
A homestead exemption is designed to help homeowners save on property taxes. When a certain amount of the property is considered exempt, it can lower your property tax. Most often, to qualify you must use your home as your permanent residence—so no exemptions on your rental properties or vacation homes. Different states have different requirements and restrictions. For example, in Texas, you can claim your free-standing home, condo or mobile home, while only single family homes qualify for exemptions in other states. Homeowners who are 65-years-old or older, veterans or disabled could qualify for additional exemptions. Exemption amounts vary greatly from state to state, so be sure to contact your local government to find out more about your options.
In the event you believe your home has been wrongfully assessed too high (thus making your property taxes too high) you can challenge your assessment. Successful adjustments are more likely—but not guaranteed—for the homeowner who comes adequately prepared. To prepare:
1) Do your research: Learn the appeals process for your town, study your town’s property tax records (public records), make sure all the specific details about your home (i.e. number of bedrooms, bathrooms, finished attic, etc.) are correct. Also, gather property tax information for nearby homes of similar value and lower taxes that support your cause.
2) Present your case. Once you’ve filled out your appeal and gathered all your relevant sources, you will want to schedule an appointment to meet with your tax assessor. Timing is everything here, so be sure to get some facetime before he or she has already met with the tax board.
The most important thing to know about your property taxes is that they come due each and every year. It is your responsibility to ensure they are paid. Keeping receipts for your annual payments is good insurance. For more specifics, be sure to reach out to the office of your local tax assessor who will know best the specific rules about property taxes in your area.