7 Ways to Lower Your Property Tax Bill
Struggling to pay your property taxes or just feel you're paying too much? There's plenty that you can do about that. Here are six strategies that you can use to lower your property tax bill:
Appeal Your Assessment
Tax assessors don't always get it right. If you see an error on your property card, or you think your assessment is too high, you have the right to file an appeal, and you should definitely exercise it. According to the National Taxpayers Union, the majority of people who file an appeal win.
Apply for a Tax Freeze
Many states will allow you to freeze your property taxes at their current rate if you're a senior, a veteran or disabled. Eligibility requirements vary from state to state, so you'll need to check with your state's department of taxation to find out if this is an option for you. In most cases, it just requires a simple application.
Enroll in a Tax Relief Program
Your state may also offer a tax relief program for low-income individuals. This is awarded as a rebate or tax credit that is intended to cover a portion of your property tax bill. How much you receive depends on your income and your property assessment. To be eligible, your total household income must fall below a certain level. In some states, you must also be a senior, a veteran or disabled; but plenty of states offer this program to all low-income individuals. Check with your state's department of taxation to find out what relief programs are available.
File for a Homestead Exemption or Credit
All but a handful of states allow you to claim your primary residence as a homestead, which offers you protection from creditors and exempts you from paying a portion of your property tax bill, say the first $50,000 of its assessed value. That could add up to a pretty hefty savings over the years, so it's definitely worth pursuing. Check with your state's department of taxation for more information.
Find Out If You're Eligible for a Circuit Breaker Credit
21 states offer what is known as a circuit breaker tax credit. These are designed to provide relief to homeowner's who are paying a large portion of their income to property tax, by capping your tax bill at a certain percentage of your income. Some states set one percentage for everyone in the state, others use a sliding scale to determine what's fair based on your income (i.e. individuals who earn the least will pay the least). And some even allow renters to apply for the benefit.
Since circuit breakers are a tax credit, you'll have to pay your property tax bill in full, but you'll receive a rebate for the amount you overpaid.
Go here to learn more about circuit breaker tax credits, and to see if your state has a program. (Note: at least four states have added programs since this linked document was published, so check with your state, if you don't see yours on the list.)
Take Advantage of Your State's Greenbelt Law
If you own a large parcel of land that is used for farming, forestry or as open space, you may be eligible for a tax break under greenbelt law. Each state has its own rules and application process, but it generally requires submitting a form with details about your property and its current use, as well as a management plan. Check with your state's department of taxation for eligibility requirements and deadlines.
Some states require you to make your land accessible to the public, in order to receive greenbelt status. So, you may find that the added liability and loss of privacy just isn't worth the money that you'll save on your property taxes. Do your homework before you apply.
Maximize Your Property Tax Savings
Many of the programs outlined above are stackable, meaning you could apply for both a tax freeze and a tax relief program. Study all of your state's offerings carefully to make sure you're taking advantage of everything that you're eligible for.