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Challenge your property tax assessment


Are your property taxes higher than they should be? For many in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area, property taxes are at an all-time high. But what you may not know is that there is something you can do about it.

If you think your assessment is out of line, you have the right to challenge the value that assessors have placed on your property. Knowledge of the "system" and a good presentation on the true physical and economic condition of the property by someone with a working knowledge of the tax-assessment system can often aid you in getting your taxes decreased.

For your convenience, here is a brief overview of how the system works. All property is reassessed in cycles. In Maryland, property is assessed every three years; in the District of Columbia, it's assessed every year; and, in Virginia, property can be assessed in any cycle between one and five years. In Maryland, if your property is up for re-assessment, you will receive a notice in December. To appeal a scheduled re-assessment, you must file an appeal by February of that year. However, even if you do not receive a notice, if you feel your property taxes are too high, you may file and "out-of-cycle" appeal at any time. If you are successful in that "out-of-cycle" appeal, the taxes will be reduced for the following years remaining in the cycle.

When you do file an appeal, you have the right to a personal meeting with the assessor assigned to your property to present your case. The county supervisor of assessments then renders a decision either to lower or not to change your assessment. If your tax assessment is not lowered, you may then appeal the decision to the Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board. If you do not get relief there, then you may appeal to the Maryland Tax Court.

Always keep in mind that the grounds for any appeal must be based on the fair market value of the property, which takes into consideration comparable sales, condition of the property, replacement costs, income, expenses, and other information. Even though the best results are often achieved with properties that are a little older or run down, even high-grade properties should be regularly evaluated for appeal. Sometimes the results can be just as dramatic.

Keep in mind that the evaluation procedure also applies to rental properties. If you own a property that is producing at capacity, you have a lot of vacancies, or your maintenance costs are high, you have a good chance of a significant property tax reduction. Even if your rental property is in good condition and operating at capacity, the property still may be over-assessed.

You work too hard for your property to overpay your property taxes. Take advantage of your right to appeal.

Brian s. Jablon, attorney, is a partner at Saltzman & Jablon, LLC. The firm has offices in Ellicott City, Severna Park and Towson.

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