A few weeks ago I read an article in the Wall Street Journal on How to Lower your Property Taxes. It was a well written story – enhanced by a nice cartoon – to help readers get the tax values of their homes reduced and property taxes lowered.

Lower your Property TaxesThis is a timely story. A few weeks ago the Franklin County Auditor mailed letters to all homeowners with newly proposed tax values of their Columbus homes. The auditor just finished the 2011 re-appraisal. Almost every home in Franklin County will be affected.

As we own rental property, we received quite a few of these letters. The value of each home changed. Not all to the better (lower).

It appears that tax values in newer subdivisions went down by as much as 25%, while the tax values in the “hood” went up. Some more than doubled.

How Do You Appeal the Auditor’s Valuation?

Appealing the auditor’s value is not difficult. However, it can be quite time consuming. It may take years. We started appealing property values in 2007. Some of them just got resolved a few months ago.

There are 3 ways to appeal the valuation of your property. The easiest is to go to one of the “Informal Valuation Meetings” the auditor announced on the letter you received. They are still going on until the end of September. I strongly recommend you go to one of them and plead your case.

My husband attended one a few days ago. He brought a list of 3 comparable sales for each property we wanted to appeal. After a short 20 minute wait he met with a friendly appraiser, presented the numbers and was assured that our proposed values will be considered.

It helps to be reasonable. Don’t request a home value of $10,000, if you rent a property for $1,000 a month, and you know in your heart that you could sell the house for $60,000 today.

It’s About The School District

We had a lot of success appealing values with the auditor’s staff. The real nemesis is not the auditor, but the school district. They will fight tooth and nail to keep your property values high. They are the major beneficiary of the property taxes.

If the informal review does not result in a satisfactory home value, you need to file a formal appeal. This can be done at the beginning of the new year, and has to be submitted by the end of March. You will need to submit a simple form, which you can find on the Franklin County Auditor’s website. You can even mail it in.

Once they receive your appeal, you will be invited to the Board of Revision (BOR). This may take 6 months or more. At that meeting you need to present some evidence. A HUD-1 closing statement works best for recent purchases (if the purchase price is lower than the tax value.) You can also bring an appraisal or comps prepared by a Columbus real estate agent.

The Board of Revision

The 3 board members are usually friendly. The one that may try to intimidate you is the attorney hired by the school district. The BOR never questioned the validity of our comps, however, they will ask, if it was a distress sale and how much you rent the property for.

The BOR will issue a ruling. Most of the time they agree with your evidence and lower the taxes.

Now here’s the kicker. If the school district does not like the new, lower valuation, they will appeal this decision and the case will go to the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals (BTA). The school’s appeal automatically, if the tax value is lowered by more than 25%. It may take another 12 months to get a hearing at the BTA.

Again, you need to show up and bring your evidence – comps, closing statement, appraisal (if available). In our experience the court will approve the original BOR valuation, i.e. the lower tax value, despite all kinds of legal maneuvering by the school district’s attorney.

Bottom Line

Earlier this year we got a few cases confirmed by the Board of Tax Appeals. The county immediately refunded any overpayment of property taxes. However, we lost the case on numerous properties due to formal errors, such as, signing the application as a trustee instead of as an individual.

It is worth appealing the tax valuation of your property! Though, it may take years to get a final decision, but there’s a good chance you will get some money back. It also helps to hire an attorney and avoid formal errors that may cost you the case.