If you receive a property tax bill in the mail, feel it's too high and want to fight it, then you have the right to try having it lowered. First you'll have to contact your local tax assessor to try hashing things out, but if that doesn't work, you can take steps toward building a case to prove you're being unfairly taxed. You only have a limited amount of time, though, before a government-imposed window of opportunity to appeal the taxation closes.
Talk to your County Assessor first about your property taxes. The office's contact information should be somewhere on your property tax bill. During an open dialogue, several things could happen: errors in the assessment could be found and agreement to lower the taxes could be made, or, upon explanation by the Assessor, you might find out that an appeal to lower your taxes isn't warranted.
Ask your local Tax Assessor's office to request that tax appeal forms be sent to you if your talks with the Assessor go nowhere. The Application for Changed Assessment can usually be filed with the Assessment Appeals Board or Board of Equalization where your property's located.
Assess the current price per square foot of homes sold in your neighborhood or zip code in order to help build your case. There are a number of websites that you can use to search home values, including Housevalues.com and Zillow.com. Big-name websites like Yahoo! and America Online (AOL) also have real estate sections where you can search for home values by typing in a zip code.
Fill out the forms from the Assessors office after receiving and reading them. It should take a few days from when you request the forms to when you receive them from the Assessor's office. In the paperwork, include a proposed new assessed value of your property and use the results of your research to build your case as to why your property taxes should be lowered.
Carefully review all your paperwork, then mail it off to the Assessor's office. There are different types of deadlines to file the paperwork, depending on the reason for your appeal. Make sure you meet that deadline or your appeal won't be considered. If you're not sure of your deadline, check with the Assessor's office or the Board of Equalization.
Mark Nero has been a professional journalist since 1995 and has written for numerous publications within and outside the U.S. His work has appeared in "The Boston Globe," "San Diego Union-Tribune" and "Los Angeles Daily News" among others. Nero studied communications at San Diego State University.