By Nathan Vinson, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP
Everyone who owns a home gets a bill from their local municipality for property taxes. It’s not a surprise that it’s coming. Most of us sigh, write the check (or let your mortgage holder do it) and move on, wondering what that money really does, anyway. (Short answer: it funds governments and schools.)
But every now and then, you get a property tax bill that makes you do a double-take because it is larger than you expected. There are a few reasons this can happen.
- Your local government entity increased its tax rate.
- Your property was recently re-assessed, and the value has increased.
- A new tax referendum passed, increasing your rate.
- Someone made a mistake.
You don’t have to accept the tax bill you’re sent if you truly believe the tax rate or assessment is wrong. You can protest – and I’ll walk you through how to do that.
First, a primer on local property taxes
If you live in the City of Bowling Green, you get two bills: one from the City of Bowling Green and one from Warren County. You can find out more about these taxes here. Tax bills are mailed in October and due by December 31. You can see a chart of tax rates here.
In Kentucky, property values are set by the Property Value Administration in each county. The amount is used as the basis for taxes on your home by both the county and city. You can find the Warren County PVA web site here. If you want to look up the value of your property, you will need a subscription, which you can only pay for at the PVA office or by mail. Subscriptions are $5 for one day or $30 for a year.
Some people pay their property taxes by escrow, meaning it is part of their mortgage. The lender adds a pro-rated amount onto each mortgage payment throughout the year and holds on to it to pay your taxes when it comes time. It is convenient, but you really should review your property tax statements every year to ensure that the amount of escrowed taxes is in line with the actual tax bill. It is not uncommon for mortgage holders to want to be “over-protected.”
The first place to start with your tax bill is to examine what you paid last year. You’ll need the full statement so you can see what your property was valued at last year for tax purposes, and what the tax rate was last year and what it is now. Compare those lines. What’s different?
If you notice that the value of your property has jumped dramatically, that’s what you need to investigate. If houses around your home have sold recently for increased amounts, it can lift the valuation of your house, too. If your house was recently refinanced, requiring a new appraisal, that can also increase the tax value of your house.
You have the right to ask for a copy of the assessment, if you have not received it. You can get a copy of that from the local PVA office.
Tax valuations and appraisals aren’t the same thing. Appraisals are in-depth and include an evaluation of the interior of the house as well as the exterior. The appraiser is indicating what he or she believe your home is worth on the real estate market, giving the lender a figure of how much they can loan you to cover the cost of your home or renovations. A tax valuation is a faster assessment, and not done even close to every year – hence, why your tax bill may jump sometimes rather unexpectedly. An appraisal can be used as a starting point for re-assessment, though.
How to protest
The most important thing is to act fast. If you believe your taxes are improperly high, don’t sit on it. Gather up the following as evidence:
- Current assessment
- Past assessments – as many as you have
- Current tax bill
- Past tax bills – as many as you have
- Appraisal of your home
- Documents that indicate how much surrounding/comparable properties have sold for
You have the right to appeal the assessment to the local Board of Assessment Appeals. The appeals board meets only at certain times of the year, so when you receive the tax bill you disagree with, contact your local county clerk as soon as possible to file an appeal. Your county may have helpful information online about appealing your assessment, such as this information found on the website of the Warren County Property Valuation Administrator.
If you own several properties or have a particularly complicated situation, you may want to hire a professional to help you attack the problem. An experienced attorney from our firm can help you with that. We have successfully appealed tax bills on behalf of home and business owners and will be glad to help you, too. Contact me, attorney Nathan Vinson, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (270) 781-6500.
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