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It's time to lower your property taxes.

Gigi Berman Aharoni is right. Real estate values are in a nosedive, so you may have a good shot at lowering your property taxes.

In her recent article on titled "Real Estate Crisis May Lower Your Tax Property Bill," Aharoni urges readers not to trash their "Tentative Assessment Value" notice when they receive it in the mail from their county assessor. The statement provides important information on taxes, namely the value of your property as pegged by the county, which is what your tax bill is based on.

Take a look at it. Or if you haven't seen one in a while, contact the assessor for the county where your property is and get a copy. Do you agree with the estimate of value? If you think it may be high, you have a right to protest. If you do, and they agree to adjust the value downward, you'll owe less in taxes.

The first step is to contact your assessor's office and gather all the information that they have on your property. Try to understand their valuation methodology. Does it look fair? If you think it's overvalued, the next step is to find out if there's a deadline to submit your protest for the current tax year.

Third, gather as much evidence as you can that might support a lower valuation: pictures, comparable sales, letters, even an appraisal from a respected appraiser. Submit the data to the assessor in the manner requested by them.

Of course, there are people who specialize in helping property owners lower their assessed values. If you think you might want to go this route, ask your assessor for recommendations. Ask your realtor or real estate broker for recommendations, but keep in mind that most assessors' offices will readily accommodate individual property owners in their efforts to provide information that might substantiate a value lower than the assessed value of record.

Bear in mind that value is subjective but is also based on objective information about the property and the values of similar properties changing hands. Also, assessors can be WAY off the mark. That's no reason to get mad, just a reason to help them learn the error of their ways. Sometimes, they have poor or even inaccurate information about your property. Your job is to help them get the facts straight.

Pay particular attention if your property is unique or in an area undergoing change, such as development. Value swings can be substantial.

A case in point: A partner of mine just completed a protest on a piece of property that we own jointly in a rapidly developing area. The assessor boosted the value tremendously this year, giving it a value commensurate with its location along a new city road being built. Granted, values rise sharply when access is provided or improved, but in this case the property remains zoned for agricultural use! That is, at this time, we do not have the legal right to use the land for any purpose other than agriculture. So, valuing it--as the assessor did--with a highest and best use of commercial development does not compute. We alerted the assessor to this and succeeded in reducing our taxes by 80%--some $30,000!

What's the moral of the story? Do as Aharoni urges--don't throw away your assessed value statement. Values have declined all over the U.S. Be sure you're not paying taxes based on 2007 values.

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Title Annotation:TAXES
Publication:The Business Owner
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2009
Previous Article:Look around: you're a bigger fish now.
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