Imagine paying $1,400 in property taxes. Not too bad? Now imagine overpaying by $1,400. Feel differently? Unfortunately, this is a real situation for many families in many cities across the nation. Citizens overpaying property taxes has become an epidemic, of sorts, for which there could be many contributing factors. For one, as property values decrease, the property value may still be recorded by the County Tax Assessor at the higher value. This creates a discrepancy in what should be paid versus what is actually paid. One may ask, why are homes losing their value? One of the largest influences in property value decreases are neighboring home foreclosures. Fair or not, when homes in your neighborhood foreclose, your property value decreases, and so should the amount of taxes you pay on that property.
The discrepancy issue arises when County Tax Assessors do not include foreclosed properties within the same neighborhood, often next door to the subject property, because they haven't been required to do so. Many homeowners do not appeal the assessed values provided by the county, so the county receives more than it should in property taxes. Now consider for a moment that most of the people paying property tax overages live in some of the hardest hit areas due to foreclosures, which also happens to be some of the lowest tax brackets. In other words, most of the people paying tax overages, are the ones that can least afford to do so.
Based on a recent report published by one of Atlanta's largest non-profit housing policy advocates, Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, 5 counties within the Atlanta Metro Area collected about 86 million dollars in overages last year. If a portion of that 86 million was yours, wouldn't you want it back? Of course you would. The last thing you would want to see is your hard earned dollars flying out of the window. In this case, they are flying out of the window and into the county's pockets. I know this sounds bad, but let's flip the coin for just a moment.
Counties all across the country find themselves in the same position as many American citizens–struggling, with many filing bankruptcy and others not far behind. If we remove the county's ability to receive these unfair overages, more of them would be filing bankruptcy sooner. This illuminates another issue. As I mentioned earlier, most of the citizens paying overages, are the least likely to be able to do it. So the downtrodden, are funding the government's inefficiencies, dishonesty, and haphazard operations. Consider that. The financially unfortunate are keeping the county afloat. While this is not a pretty picture, the counties alone do not hold the blame. As citizens, we have a responsibility to be educated on how to take care of the biggest asset most Americans will ever own, our homes. We should not take for granted that our local government has our "best" interest in mind because we are all human and make mistakes, however costly or inconvenient they may be.
Though none of us are perfect, the government has taken an important step to fix the problem. Fortunately, Senate Bill 55 passed last year. Among other things, this bill requires Tax Assessors to use foreclosures in the analysis of their properties. This allows for more accurate assessments based on fair market value, rather than the inflated prices caused by the housing boom, which was responsible for most of the problematic foreclosures in the first place. As properties are assessed more fairly in the future, your pockets may begin to feel a slight ease in your financial burden.
For now, if you think your property is among the millions that have been poorly assessed, please take the necessary steps to have your property re-assessed. First, check your local tax assessor's office for procedures and exact deadline to file. Second, file a formal dispute with your country supplying all supporting evidence such as a recent market analysis and appraisals. Then wait about 60 days for a response. If after 60 days you still haven't heard anything, start again. Most importantly, don't quit until you get results.
Look for Clyde Anderson's Home School segments in the 7am ET hour of CNN Saturday Morning with TJ Holmes.