NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 12, 2010

Now that the housing bubble has burst, up to 60 percent of the nation's taxable property may be over assessed, meaning their owners are paying thousands of dollars more in taxes than they need to.  That is leading to a flood of appeals in many markets from homeowners eager to cut their taxes and speed the process of aligning tax valuations with reality, says MSNBC. 

While home prices have fallen by 30 percent on average since their 2007 peak, according to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, many counties only reassess every three to five years and have little incentive to move faster considering how important property taxes are to funding local government operations, says MSNBC: 

  • Homeowners are increasingly appealing the valuations, although the number is still a tiny fraction of the total -- 2 to 4 percent, according to the National Taxpayers Union (NTU).
  • Those who appeal are getting mixed results; only 20 to 40 percent of those who challenge their assessment walk away with a victory, the NTU said.
  • Appeals have become more difficult in the last two years now that municipalities are fighting tooth and nail for everything. 

While national numbers are hard to come by, local assessors' offices -- especially in areas hit hardest in the housing bust -- suggest that challenges are on the upswing, says MSNBC: 

  • The number of appeals in Sacramento County, Calif., more than doubled from 2008 to 2009 with 11,909 appeals last year, up from 5,138 appeals in 2008.
  • Likewise, Broward County, Fla., experienced a similar spike with 8,800 appeals in 2009, compared with 4,930 appeals in 2008.
  • The Fulton County (Ga.)Taxpayers Foundation had 130 requests for appeals last year compared to more than 300 already in 2010; their success rate: 94 percent.  

But winning on appeal doesn't always equal a victory.  Property taxes account for about 45 cents of every general-revenue dollar collected by local governments, according to the NTU, and if people pay less, municipalities have to make up the difference, says MSNBC. 

Source: Kristina Dell, "Overtaxed homeowners start to fight back," MSNBC, April 7, 2010. 

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