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Have questions? Email Send your question to mlerner@smartasset.com

Ask Our Home Buying Expert

Have a question? Ask our Home Buying expert.

Have questions? Email Send your question to mlerner@smartasset.com

Are You Paying Too Much? How to Lower Your Property Tax | SmartAsset

As a homeowner, the one thing I dread the most each year is my property tax bill. Even though we currently rent our place now, we still have our old house as an income property. The tax bill still comes each year. Over time our taxes have crept up little by little even though our property value has fallen due to the terrible economy. It’s frustrating! I’m sure that we aren’t the only family in this boat. The first few years that we owned our home, I just figured that there was nothing I could do about it. Wasn’t it Ben Franklin that said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes”?

Find out now: How much house can I afford?

I had heard about a “homestead” exemption but mistakenly thought it wouldn’t apply for our home as I thought surely a little house on a ¼ of acre in the city limits would never qualify as a “homestead”. In actuality, we were eligible and it saved us a few hundred dollars per year in taxes. If you are like I was and think that there isn’t anything you can do to change your property tax bill, here are some ways you can try:

Homestead Exemption

Select areas will have a homestead exemption. This allows some homeowners an exemption of property taxes up to a certain amount. For example if the exemption is 50,000 you would only pay taxes on the amount your home is assessed at over 50,000. This allows a small break for homeowners in certain areas. Since not every household will be able to take advantage of this, you should call the tax assessor office in your area (my assessment goes through the county) to see if you qualify. You may also be able to find the application forms on their website if they have one.  Depending on the threshold, you could save a few hundred dollars on your property tax bill.

Challenge/Freeze Your Assessment

If you feel like your home assessment isn’t accurate, you can always challenge it with your local tax office. The less your property is assessed at, the less you pay in taxes. In areas where they haven’t assessed in a long time, this may not be a viable option as the amount will probably be less anyways. However, if your property was assessed and the value has decreased due to the market or other factors, you may want to check into it.

In some special circumstances you may be able to freeze your assessment to prevent future property tax increases. Members of the military, seniors or other special groups may qualify for this service. Contacting your local tax office can help you see if they have any programs in your area.

Senior Citizen Tax Rebates

For seniors on a fixed income, the tax bill can hit especially hard. With property taxes constantly increasing along with utilities and cost of living, it makes it even harder for senior citizens to pay their tax bill even if they own their home outright. Every state has some type of assistance for seniors with their property tax. Some come in the form of a tax credit, where seniors pay their bill and receive a rebate. Some states offer assessment freezes or circuit breaker programs. The circuit breaker programs are usually based on income and determines the percentage senior citizens will pay. For seniors with larger homes and less income, this can be the most beneficial program.

Don’t just assume that you don’t qualify for a break on property tax. Ask questions, research on the internet and call your local tax office to find out if there are any programs that you can take advantage of.

Have you used any of these methods to save on your tax bill? Have any tips we may have missed? Share with us below!

Photo Credit: Digitalnative

Jen Carl Jen Carl is a writer, blogger and mom living in Raleigh, NC. Once a big city career girl, she happily traded it in for a quiet life in the south. Jen is a reformed shopaholic who loves to help convert others to her thrifty ways. Her expertise includes budgeting, saving money and parenting. Jen enjoys crafting, cooking and DIY projects.
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