If you own property, you’re taxed on the value of that property. In most cases, it’s an amount you pay as part of your mortgage, but if you own your home or land outright, you’ll pay those taxes to the city rather than to a financial institution. Whether your taxes go through a mortgage company or directly to the government, though, you’ll probably occasionally be interested in finding out just how much tax you’re paying. You can get information on property taxes you paid through your mortgage company or the county assessor’s office.
Determining Your Property Taxes
There are several ways to find out how much you paid in property taxes over the course of a year, but the simplest is probably to look through your own records. Your mortgage company likely sends you a statement at least once per year that highlights what you paid in principal and interest, as well as how much was put into escrow. From your escrow account, your mortgage company pays your homeowner’s insurance and property tax bills to make sure they get paid on time.
At the end of each year, your lender is required to send you a Form 1098, which may include the amount of property tax you paid in box 10, marked “Other.” If you paid too much into escrow throughout the year, you’ll get a refund check for the overage, and this usually includes details of how much property tax was paid out of your escrow account. If you paid too little, your mortgage company will send a check for the extra amount, also including a detailed account of how your money was used.
If you aren’t receiving this information on a regular basis, contact your mortgage lender to request one. If you’ve opted into paperless billing, you may find that all of the information is being provided through a web portal.
Read More: What Increases Property Taxes?
Getting Tax Information from Lender
If you’ve looked through your records and can’t find the information, the next step will be to directly contact your mortgage company for the information. You should be able to easily find the mortgage department of your lender, but once you get through, you’ll probably need to have your account number. If you can’t find a payment coupon book or a bill, the information should be in your closing paperwork from the date you bought your home.
You should also look back in your emails to see if you have information on getting your account information online. Most lenders now allow you to set up an account and access updated information online. Using this method, you can get a better handle on your finances without having to pick up the phone or wait for a monthly bill to arrive.
Getting Tax Information from County
In some cases, the reason you want to know how to find out if property taxes have been paid is that you want to make sure the money is going where it’s supposed to. Ultimately, the responsibility for paying those taxes is on you, even though your lender has every reason to make sure they’re paid on time. But if something falls through the cracks, you could actually lose your home.
Your county assessor’s office is the best resource if you’re hoping to confirm that your taxes are being paid. Many county offices now offer a search page where you can get detailed information on property tax payments for a specific address. Here you may be able to get a copy of your bill detailing the taxes you paid, the name of the payer and the appraised value used to assess taxes on your property. If a search of your county assessor’s website brings no results, you can call or visit your county offices and provide identification to get the information.
Predicting Property Taxes
You may be most interested in the property taxes you’ll pay when you’re shopping for a new home. Since this affects the amount of your monthly mortgage payment, it’s important to be able to track down the information.
You can use the same website you’d use as a homeowner to find out your own property taxes. In some counties, all you need is the property address. You could also contact the county assessor’s office and ask for the information, explaining you’re interested in buying a property.
However, you don’t have to have a particular home in mind to predict the amount you’ll pay in property taxes each month. All you’ll need is the current tax rate for the area you’re interested in and the assessed value of the house. Note that the amount the seller is asking doesn’t necessarily match what the county thinks the home is worth, but it can at least give you a rough estimate. If you need an exact figure, though, the county assessor’s office can give you that information, as well.
Deducting Property Taxes
There is a piece of good news when it comes to the property taxes you’ll pay. In most cases, you’ll be able to deduct them on your federal income tax. As long as you’re the owner, you can claim the property taxes you paid on your IRS tax return whether it’s your primary or secondary home.
But with the changes brought by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, there is a cap on the amount of property tax you can deduct in a given tax year. Your combined total deductions for property, state and local taxes cannot exceed $5,000 for single filers and $10,000 for those who are married filing jointly.
The property tax deduction is only available if you itemize. This is especially notable post-Tax Cuts and Jobs Act since the substantial increase in the standard deduction means fewer people than ever are expected to itemize. If you’re filing singly in 2020, you’ll get a $12,400 standard deduction, and married couples will be able to take a $24,800 standard deduction. Many individual taxpayers will likely find that they don’t have enough deductions to exceed the standard.
Understanding Property Assessments
Taxes are something people pay without much question. But in the case of property taxes, it is possible for the county to get things wrong. When that happens, the overage you pay each month can quickly add up over time.
It’s important to take a look at the county’s assessment of your property and make sure it’s in line with what you think your home is worth. Granted, it can be off by a little, but generally, property assessments are on the low side compared to what a real estate agent would say you could get if you put your home on the market.
The first place to start in making sure your property taxes are accurate is to find out exactly what your property taxes are based on. You may already have received notice of this, either on a yearly basis or when your property was reassessed. This generally happens only every few years, so if you feel your property is worth more or less than the assessor said, you may simply find that it’s been a while since the last assessment and it will be rectified soon.
If You’re Overpaying Taxes
When you get the total amount the county thinks your property is worth, you don’t have to accept the finding. If you find that the amount is high, you can appeal the assessment and have the county look into it. You’ll need to gather documentation to state your case and go through the appeals process outlined by your local authorities. If property values in your neighborhood have dropped quickly in recent years due to an outbreak of crime, for instance, bring evidence of local home sales and current real estate listings to back up your claims.
The county assessor is the one who makes the final decision and, unfortunately, that decision is one you’ll probably have to accept. Chances are, the overage will need to be significant before the assessor will agree to make an adjustment. If your case is approved, though, you’ll see a change in your property tax bill, which will help lower your monthly mortgage payment until the next assessment.
Owing Back Property Taxes
As with any taxes, if you fall behind on your debt to your county offices, it will become a problem. If you know you won’t be able to pay, the best thing to do is get in touch with your county assessor’s office and ask to make an arrangement to pay what you can. Simply ignoring your obligation will only lead to penalties added on top of your existing debt.
Eventually, your county offices may put a lien on your property, which will keep you from being able to sell it until you’ve paid off the tax debt. In some cases, the county may choose to sell your property as a foreclosure and use the money to take care of the taxes you owe. If it gets to that point, work with your county assessor’s office to try to get the back taxes paid before the house is actually sold.
If you’re concerned that your taxes may not be up to date, go straight to your county assessor’s office to straighten things out. They should be able to provide a report showing a monthly accounting of any payments that have been made. If your mortgage company hasn’t been following through on paying property taxes out of your escrow, this is something to take up with them. There may be a disconnect at some point, especially if your mortgage has changed hands recently.
Once the Mortgage Is Paid
Paying off your mortgage is a huge accomplishment, but it also makes things slightly more complicated. Those property taxes that were previously being paid by your lender are now your responsibility, and you’ll be responsible for paying them even if your assessor doesn’t send you a bill. Chances are, you can get the information you need and make your payments online, but if not, you can always contact your county assessor and get instructions on paying by mail.
Most county websites now have a portal designed to help residents pay their property taxes. Using only your property address or name, you should be able to get information on how much you owe and pay your bill directly. That’s a great one-time solution, but you’ll most likely want to set payments to happen automatically. Check to see if your county office has a debit option where the amount is taken from your account.
If you’d prefer to be in control of how much you pay and when, you can set up these recurring payments to be made by your bank account on the due date. You may be able to set things up for monthly payments if this is easier on your budget, but you should also have the option to pay once or twice a year. Check in occasionally to make sure you’re up to date on payments and pay close attention to any assessment notices that might change the amount you owe.
Stephanie Faris has written about finance for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2013. She spent nearly a year as a ghostwriter for a credit card processing service and has ghostwritten about finance for numerous marketing firms and entrepreneurs. Her work has appeared on The Motley Fool, MoneyGeek, Ecommerce Insiders, GoBankingRates, and ThriveBy30.