Does your property tax seem a bit high? How do you dispute your taxes with the government?
Many homeowners feel intimidated when it comes to disputing property taxes with the county or state. Today, Gary Tretter from Blue Buckeye Investments lays out all the steps that need to be taken in St. Louis and surrounding counties to make an effective property tax appeal at every level.
Property taxes in the greater St. Louis area are done in arrears. You will receive a bill in the mail in December to pay for the year prior.
Instructions for appeal in your particular area will be on the back of your bill, though the wording can be intimidating and confusing for people who are not familiar with the jargon.
If you didn’t appeal the previous year, and you think your home is overvalued and your taxes are too high, you can dispute your taxes by taking the following steps.
In St. Louis County, a homeowner may first file for an informal appeal. You must go to the St. Louis County website to find out the deadline date to make your claim. This typically starts with a phone call. Then you will meet a county employee to discuss the dispute.
County employees can only change the value of your home between 15%-20%. You might be able to accomplish your mission here if your adjustment is small.
If you don’t reach an agreement, you must move on to the next step, but what makes the informal appeal worthwhile is that the county employee will coach you on what you will need to bring to the formal appeal, which will require more preparation.
Preparing for a Formal Appeal
The deadline to file a formal appeal is the second Monday in July. You must fill out paperwork and request an appointment. Start gathering your data and records and keep these tips in mind.
- The only type of data you can use is sales data. Just because your neighbor’s house might be nicer than yours doesn’t mean you will get a break. You must have actual sales data.
- Request sales comps from the real estate agent who sold you the house – not current market data, but for the period prior.
- You can use a recent appraisal. Again, keep in mind that these taxes are for the prior year.
- You can bring a HUD assessment or a purchase/sales agreement.
- Bring listings of your house that include the physical parameters and pictures.
- Make a list of problems and repairs that bring the value of the house down. Provide pictures of the problem areas (third-party images are more effective).
- When you take pictures of your home, make sure you don’t shy away from the less attractive rooms and features, as opposed to pictures an agent might take of the most attractive rooms and features.
- Foreclosures and short sales will not be considered in the valuation of your property.
The Process of the Formal Appeal
Gather all your data and get ready for your appointment. The final steps of the formal appeal for St. Louis County will all take place in the same day in the following order:
- First, you will meet with a county employee to go over your details. If you cannot reach an agreement, you will move on to the second step.
- In the second step, you will meet with a hearing officer who is a third-party person, usually an appraiser or broker. If you still do not reach an agreement with the hearing officer, you will proceed to step three.
- The final step is a meeting with the Board of Equalization. This will take place in a conference room with four to six other people. You will have to present your information and answer any questions the board has for you. Unfortunately, they will not have an answer for you at that time. You will receive their answer in the mail.
If you are not happy with the results, you can file with the State of Missouri. Gary Tretter says the truth is that the state doesn’t want to be bothered with the county’s property tax disputes so they will notify the county and ask them to take another look at your case.
You will meet with another county employee as they dig up more information on your property. In this instance, they will spend more time looking through all the information to reach a conclusion.
The process varies in other sectors of the greater St. Louis area. For example, St. Charles County is similar to St. Louis County, but with fewer steps. Then St. Louis City does not have the system or the accurate data to treat appeals like St. Louis County. They will send someone to your property and go through it physically with you. Jefferson County does not have to deal with many appeals at all because their data lags and shows lower property values. Check in your respective area to find out the proper procedure for disputing property taxes in your area.
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