How To Appeal Your Property Taxes
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough appraises all the property in the borough every year.
The borough is required to determine the full and true value of the property and then tax it at that value. In real estate the definition of the full and true value of any property is determined by an arms-length transaction between a willing buyer and a willing seller. Since your property probably didn’t sell last year the borough has to estimate the value using appraisal methods.
If you feel that the borough has appraised your property incorrectly you have the ability to appeal it. Your appeal must be done before March 31 of each year. There are certain rare instances in which the borough will allow you to make an appeal slightly late, but generally if you don’t appeal before March 31 you will need to wait until next year.
To file an appeal, go down to the borough building at 350 E Dahlia in Palmer and pick up the paperwork in the assessment division. You will need to tell them why you feel the borough is incorrect in their assessment. An important question to ask yourself is this, “Could I sell the property for the amount that the borough says it’s worth?”. If you can sell your property for that amount, then the borough is not too high on your assessment.
The borough appraisers walk a tight rope between their responsibility to assess your property at its full value, and keeping property owners from appealing their taxes en-masse. They generally try to be a little conservative in their valuations because they don’t want to fight every property owner about the tax value.
However, occasionally the borough is wrong on their valuation. If you feel they are wrong, you may appeal.
You will first appeal to the assessment division. If you have a real good case the appraiser will usually make an immediate adjustment to lower your value. Sometimes you will want the appraiser to come out to your property to look it over in detail. Occasionally you might tell the borough something they didn’t know about your property and they will raise your value.
If you aren’t satisfied with your results, you can appeal to the Board of Equalization. I have served on this board. It is made up of citizens in the borough that have some expertise in property values. These people can be appraisers, real estate professionals, real estate lawyers, developers and so forth. The people on the board are supposed to listen to you and to the borough and then make a decision.
Often the board will find in the private citizen’s favor and lower the value. But often, even if the private citizen has a good case, they lose the appeal because they did not bring evidence to back them up.
You absolutely have to bring evidence.
If you come with only your opinion you will fail. The board will only have the evidence brought by the borough and that is all they can consider. It doesn’t matter how much they believe you are right, they need something to go on.
The best evidence is a recent appraisal. If you don’t have a recent appraisal then you should get recent sold comparable properties. These need to be good comparables. If your home is a new 2,000 square foot two story home in Palmer the selling price of a 20 year old 1,500 square foot one story home in Big Lake won’t help you. The more similar the comparable properties the better.
Another thing you can do is find similar homes to yours that are assessed by the borough a vastly different values. There may be a good reason for the difference, but if there isn’t then you can say you aren’t being treated equally.
If the borough is assessing your property incorrectly you can appeal based on an improper assessment. Perhaps they think your house is finished on the inside when it is nothing but bare studs and a plywood floor. Or, sometimes a part of a house will be unlivable for some reason but the borough is assessing it as livable.
There have been cases where a homeowner has had some environmental damage that would cost more to clean up than the property is worth. That property might be worth nothing. If it really is worth nothing, the board may agree with that valuation and reduce the property valuation and therefore the taxes to zero.
The most important thing is to realize that you have the ability to appeal your tax valuation. If you lose your appeal before the board of equalization you still have the ability to bring the case to court.
Bottom line, file your appeal before March 31 and bring evidence to support your case.