Appeal Your Property Tax Assessment?

Yes, it is possible to appeal your property tax assessment. How likely is it to have a successful outcome? I’ve appealed twice. The first attempt was unsuccessful, but the second resulted in a lowering of the valuation by several thousand dollars.

Homeowners should review their property tax obligations by considering or looking for

  • The value of the property
  • unjust uncapping of taxable values
  • establishing trusts
  • abatement and other tax incentive programs
  • clerical errors
  • mutual mistakes of facts
  • principal residence exemption appeals
  • agricultural exemption appeals
  • incorrect reporting of personal property
  • others
I will discuss only the value of the property and mutual mistakes of fact and then I will discuss the process.

Value If your State Equalized Valuation (SEV) exceeds 50% of the value of the property, you might want to appeal. How to determine the value of the property? For tax purposes, the value of the property is considered to be its cash value, “the usual selling price at the place where the property to which the term is applied is at the time of assessment, being the price which could be obtained for the property at private sale, and not at auction sale except as otherwise provided in this section, or at forced sale …” Sec 211.27(1) of the General Property Tax Act. This is the same as fair market value, which I use to determine the price at which to list a house. The value of the house is often determined by comparing the property to similar properties nearby that have recently sold. This is as much art as science. If you are convinced that the SEV is out of line to the cash value of your property, you might want to hire a state-licensed (licensing is a state requirement) appraiser to appraise your property. Such an appraisal would bolster your argument. Hiring an appraiser is not required.

I presented my own comparables in my successful appeal, but then my years of experience as a Realtor gives me much of that art and science in determining the market value of a property. You might want to consult your Realtor to see if your idea of the value of your home is reasonable, then you can decide whether to proceed with an appeal or not; and if you do proceed, whether to get a professional appraisal first.

Mutual Errors of Fact Is the assessor relying on incorrect information about the property? On my house, the assessor had the square footage higher than actual because he assumed space above the garage and kitchen were finished, but they weren’t. He also assumed there was a garbage disposal because everyone has a garbage disposal; but since my husband composts everything, we never bothered to install one. That can’t change the SEV much, but everything counts, right? Some tax boards may want you to file these errors with them before your scheduled meeting. That being said, are there improvements to your house for which you failed to pull a permit? Challenging the assessment on the basis of mutual errors of fact invites the assessor into your home if he chooses.

The Process of Appealing Each township and municipality has its own Board of Review. The dates for appeal are pretty standard, but there is some variation so check with yours to verify. Many have websites that explain the procedure. If not, call to verify.

Tuesday following the first Tuesday in March is the first meeting of township Board of review. Cities may vary so check first.

  1. Determine that an appeal is warranted
  2. Call and schedule a date and time to appeal
  3. Send the Board of Appeal copies of any pertinant documents ahead of time
  4. Show up fully prepared to argue your case
Simply making an emotional appeal will not work. Stating an opinion without verifiable evidence will not work. If you don’t like the determination of the Board of Review, you can appeal to the Michigan Tax Tribunal (deadline is May 31). If your claim is small and not complex, that could be with the Small Claims Division. Informal hearings are ~ 30 minutes and held within your or an adjacent county.

If your dispute is complex or involves a lot of money, you will be sent before the entire tribunal. That is run according to formal court proceedings in Lansing and with hearings averaging 3 days. Representation by an attorney is recommended as is the aforementioned professional appraisal.

Good Luck!
If you have any questions about selling or buying real estate, call me at 734-649-3733.