How a homeowner can appeal a property tax assessment

MAILBAG

January 25, 2004|By Jonathan A. Azrael

Many Maryland homeowners recently have received new property tax assessment notices from the state.

An assessment estimates the current market value of your property. Local governments apply their tax rates to the assessment in determining the annual taxes for the property. Property is reassessed every three years.

An increase in your assessment from the old market value to the current market value is equally divided over three years. This "phase-in" is designed to prevent the full increase in value being subject to taxes in one year.

If you disagree with the new assessed value, you have a right to appeal within 45 days from the date on the notice. Although the assessment notice breaks down property value into separate components for land and buildings, it is the total market value of land and building together that is subject to appeal.

You can submit the reasons for your appeal in writing. You also can meet with the assessor, in person or by telephone.

General objections like "My land is not worth what it's been assessed for" are not helpful. For your appeal to be successful, you should provide reasons why the total market value of your property is too high.

In most cases, you should request a copy of the assessor's work sheet to verify that the information about your property is correct. If the size of your property is smaller than shown on the assessor's records, or your home does not have all of the features shown on the work sheet, you may be entitled to a reduction.

If your property has been damaged or part of the property is not habitable, these factors also may warrant a reduced assessment. Or, if similar properties to yours recently have sold for less than the assessed value of your property, the assessor will consider this information in determining whether to lower the valuation.

Further appeals can be made to the Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board and to the Maryland Tax Court.

The State Department of Assessments and Taxation publishes helpful material on the assessment process. You can access this information at www.dat.state.md.us or by visiting a local assessment office. You also can obtain information there about the Homeowners' Tax Credit Program, which allows a property tax credit to households whose gross income is below a state-mandated standard.

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