Immediate results would be nice, but that’s not how it works in the world of tax appeals. The Sacramento County Assessment Appeals Board technically has up to two years to get back to property owners when they file a property tax appeal. I’ve personally not seen them take that long for my clients, though it is technically possible. I’ve been finding most of the 2011 appeals I did for home owners have been starting to get resolved over the past few months. The bulk of these appeals were turned in just before the deadline in November 2011. Some of them were resolved in about three months (that’s very quick), whereas others have taken more than six months (and I’m still waiting on some too).
What happens after you turn in your appeal?
1. Letter in the Mail from the Appeals Board: After you’ve filled out the Application for Changed Assessment and the Assessment Appeals Board has reviewed your file, they’ll send you a letter in the mail (or if I’m your agent, then I get the letter and handle everything for you while you relax). This is not junk mail. Watch your mail carefully because you need to respond.
2. Withdraw or not Withdraw? That is the Question: The letter the Appeals Board sends will either: a) Agree with your opinion of value and ask you to therefore withdraw your appeal; b) Ask you to agree with a new value they pick (not your value, but maybe close to it) and therefore withdraw your appeal; or c) Set up an appeals hearing to further discuss your situation. Don’t worry about filling out the following “Tax Change Withdrawal” form. It’s a legitimate form. All you are doing is agreeing with the new value and withdrawing your right to further appeal. If you don’t agree with the value, call the Appeals Board appraiser and discuss the market (the phone number should be listed on the letterhead in the same envelope as the withdrawal form).
The Sometimes Tricky Part: It’s always ideal when the Appeals Board agrees with the value you came up with, but that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the Appeals Board appraiser offers a slightly higher value. When this happens, I typically coach my clients to accept the value so long as it is fairly close to the value I came up with. Unless the value is really too high, it’s not worth it to spend extra time and money to argue for an additional $100 savings.
Situation #1: This happened to a client last week. The withdrawal form offered $250,000, but the value I came up with was $230,000 (this was a very solid value too). I called up the appraiser and had a discussion about the market. I got the sense that he was not going to budge, so I asked him to meet me in the middle at $240,000. He agreed. While $230,000 would have been ideal, the extra $10,000 in property taxes is only worth about $125, so my client chose to rejoice that his taxes were lowered from $280,000, and simply accept the $240,000. Had we gone through the appeals hearing, I’m confident that $230,000 would have prevailed, but sometimes it’s just not worth the effort in light of minimal savings to be had. The property owner makes this decision though and I’ll move forward with either direction.
Situation #2: The Appeals Board initially rejected the value I proposed at $160,000 and instead persisted to advocate for $200,000. Honestly, I’m not sure the appraiser even read through my report, but that’s another story. My research was extremely detailed with graphs and a clear picture of value at $160,000. It’s a good thing I knew the market because when the Assessor’s appraiser called me back (while I was out and about) to discuss the situation, he took into consideration my points and agreed with the $160,000 value.
Most of the time if you put together a solid report, the Appeals Board will agree with your value or offer you something very close. It’s nothing to be worried about. On the other hand, if you lowball a value and offer nearby sales that really aren’t comps, then don’t be surprised if your value is rejected altogether. If the Appeals Board does not agree with your value, and you wish to move forward still, then be ready to plan for an appeals hearing.
3. When will you get your tax refund? After you withdraw your application and agree to a new value, your refund should come within 95 business days. Please note BUSINESS DAYS. Don’t expect to be the exception either. You’ll get between $100-125 back for every $10,000 in property reduction. If you were overassessed by $50,000, for example, you would get $500-625 back in your pockets. Most clients get back anywhere from several hundred dollars to sometimes $2,000. I had one client that was owed over $10,000 back.
Is it worth it to appeal your property taxes? If you are overassessed, it is absolutely worth it. It might sound like a pain to a certain extent, but in my opinion it’s more of a pain to pay too much in property taxes. If the details stress you out, then give me a call. If you need help, I’m very good at what I do, and I’m glad to take a look at your situation to see if there might be a potential savings for you.