When everyone else is cheating (property taxes)

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CarefulBuilder14
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When everyone else is cheating (property taxes)

Postby CarefulBuilder14 » Sat Apr 16, 2016 2:16 pm

I was talking to a relative who is exploring selling her family's home. She found out that they are the only family on their street that hasn't challenged the property tax assessment. As such, she has been paying about 50% more than others with similar homes. None of the homes, as far as I know, were really over-assessed - it's just that everyone wants to pay less than they should be, and town officials either don't care or don't have the time for lawsuits and do a deal.

When Americans seem so much more focused on cheating their own neighbors than paying their share (or trying to actually improve things for their communities), I get discouraged. I've met some of the neighbors and they seem friendly. It's as if by hiring a law firm to challenge the assessment, they feel they can remain ethical. They don't realize they're saying "F you" to their neighbors when they authorize some law firm that mass-mailed them with the idea to challenge it.

I'm not a homeowner, but do most people live in communities where this system is in shambles? Are there any ways to fix the system, rather than just cheat it?

*Obviously, there are a lot of complicated economic and ethical issues when it comes to consider when it comes to shaping a tax system. My point is more that if we can't do the simplest thing...to get allegedly friendly neighbors to cooperate on a tax that's reasonably fair and easy to determine...what hope do we have for anything else (like income tax fairness and reform)?
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Tubpbs
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Re: When everyone else is cheating (property taxes)

Postby Tubpbs » Sat Apr 16, 2016 3:00 pm

CarefulBuilder14 wrote:I was talking to a relative who is exploring selling her family's home. She found out that they are the only family on their street that hasn't challenged the property tax assessment. As such, she has been paying about 50% more than others with similar homes. None of the homes, as far as I know, were really over-assessed - it's just that everyone wants to pay less than they should be, and town officials either don't care or don't have the time for lawsuits and do a deal.

When Americans seem so much more focused on cheating their own neighbors than paying their share (or trying to actually improve things for their communities), I get discouraged. I've met some of the neighbors and they seem friendly. It's as if by hiring a law firm to challenge the assessment, they feel they can remain ethical. They don't realize they're saying "F you" to their neighbors when they authorize some law firm that mass-mailed them with the idea to challenge it.

I'm not a homeowner, but do most people live in communities where this system is in shambles? Are there any ways to fix the system, rather than just cheat it?

*Obviously, there are a lot of complicated economic and ethical issues when it comes to consider when it comes to shaping a tax system. My point is more that if we can't do the simplest thing...to get allegedly friendly neighbors to cooperate on a tax that's reasonably fair and easy to determine...what hope do we have for anything else (like income tax fairness and reform)?


The short answer is: no chance.

While, like you said, most people are nice enough and friendly enough, my experience in general (not with this specific issue) has been that when it comes to money, big or small, people get ruthless and cutthroat. They could care less about their neighbor, their friend, their community when it comes to money in their pocket.

I think part of it is the general entitlement most Americans feel in all aspects of life (credit included). I think a large part of it is just human nature. You have to look out for number one. If you don't, you'll find yourself the victim of someone more keen than you who is.

It sucks. But it's not likely to change anytime soon. I don't know what would or could change something like that really...
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Re: When everyone else is cheating (property taxes)

Postby Nixon » Sat Apr 16, 2016 8:25 pm

Well maybe if property taxes weren't arbitrarily raised constantly I wouldn't have to protest them.

I saved 2K this year protesting my property tax and I'll do it again for as long as I am able to do so.
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Re: When everyone else is cheating (property taxes)

Postby CarefulBuilder14 » Sat Apr 16, 2016 8:48 pm

If members of a small, homogeneous town (in this case) spent their energy trying to improve the efficiency of local government and schools, instead of just trying to constantly shift as much of the burden as possible to others, everyone would benefit...instead of just a few specialized law firms. The residents don't win if everyone does it...just the lawyers.
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Re: When everyone else is cheating (property taxes)

Postby TXviking » Sat Apr 16, 2016 9:03 pm

I challenged my property tax assessment this year. Because somehow, just before my homestead exemption was supposed to take effect, my county arbitrarily decided my property value had gone up $50K in a year. Which conveniently happens to offset the homestead exemption.

I don't believe it's anywhere near that (in fact, during a recent refi, a more realistic appraisal said it had gone up $12,500 in two years). I live on a dirt road, I have to provide my own well and septic, and to be honest, I don't receive anywhere near $7K/yr in services from my county.

I chose to live here, and I like the area. I'm also fully on board with the idea that everyone has to contribute and that my taxes are supposed to help provide good services for all residents of the county. No objection to that.

But the way I view this convenient, large increase in my assessed value, it's the county who's trying to cheat, not me. I simply want my share of taxes to be FAIR, not to be gouged because they can.

:rant:
I'll also add that I previously didn't qualify for a homestead exemption because I was not a permanent resident prior to 2012. At the time, I was here on a long-term work visa, I was in legal status, I lived in my house, and I worked and paid taxes in the local community. Having to pay more than my neighbors just because I happened to be born in another country also did not feel fair.

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Re: When everyone else is cheating (property taxes)

Postby Nixon » Sat Apr 16, 2016 9:05 pm

CarefulBuilder14 wrote:If members of a small, homogeneous town (in this case) spent their energy trying to improve the efficiency of local government and schools, instead of just trying to constantly shift as much of the burden as possible to others, everyone would benefit...instead of just a few specialized law firms. The residents don't win if everyone does it...just the lawyers.


I don't live in a small town. :ppp

There are homes MUCH more expensive than mine in my neighborhood and part of that includes services I make zero use (and will likely continue to make zero use) of.

I don't feel a shred of remorse paying $3,800 in property tax vs $5,780 that was so graciously "requested"
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Kevin86475391
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Re: When everyone else is cheating (property taxes)

Postby Kevin86475391 » Wed Apr 27, 2016 10:08 pm

Hmm, well I'm not a homeowner and don't plan to become one, so perhaps my opinion is irrelevant on this topic.

However, in general I'm actually in favor of higher taxation, not specifically with homes and property but across the board with everything. I think taxes should be the primary way to pay for most services and social programs, and I'm in favor of more services and social programs. So yes - TAXES!

That said, I also absolutely think everyone from Joe Average on Main Street to Jane Mega Corp on Wall Street is entitled to pay the absolute bare minimum they can get away with by law. If people can find ways to dispute their taxes, locate exemptions and write offs, and generally relieve as much of their tax burden as possible, then more power to them. To me disputing a tax assessment is absolutely legal and a completely prudent financial decision. Morally I wouldn't place any of the burden on the tax payer to not do that and 100% of the burden on the county, state, or federal government to reject the claim if they can and enforce the original amount. I'm even fine with someone claiming that their property value is 40K less (hypothetically) and then turning around and finding a buyer willing to pay 80K more than the appraisal value. More power to them if they can pull that off. Just as the tax enforcement burden is on the government, so too is the burden on the buyer to make sure they're getting a good deal. IMO, the property owner isn't doing a thing wrong morally or ethically in this example and is merely exercising good business/financial sense.

Just my opinion though.

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Re: When everyone else is cheating (property taxes)

Postby Nixon » Thu Apr 28, 2016 5:06 am

Kevin86475391 wrote:Hmm, well I'm not a homeowner and don't plan to become one, so perhaps my opinion is irrelevant on this topic.

However, in general I'm actually in favor of higher taxation, not specifically with homes and property but across the board with everything. I think taxes should be the primary way to pay for most services and social programs, and I'm in favor of more services and social programs. So yes - TAXES!

That said, I also absolutely think everyone from Joe Average on Main Street to Jane Mega Corp on Wall Street is entitled to pay the absolute bare minimum they can get away with by law. If people can find ways to dispute their taxes, locate exemptions and write offs, and generally relieve as much of their tax burden as possible, then more power to them. To me disputing a tax assessment is absolutely legal and a completely prudent financial decision. Morally I wouldn't place any of the burden on the tax payer to not do that and 100% of the burden on the county, state, or federal government to reject the claim if they can and enforce the original amount. I'm even fine with someone claiming that their property value is 40K less (hypothetically) and then turning around and finding a buyer willing to pay 80K more than the appraisal value. More power to them if they can pull that off. Just as the tax enforcement burden is on the government, so too is the burden on the buyer to make sure they're getting a good deal. IMO, the property owner isn't doing a thing wrong morally or ethically in this example and is merely exercising good business/financial sense.

Just my opinion though.


That's nice.

Come back and let us know how you feel when and IF you become a homeowner, or make enough money to where your monthly federal tax burden is large enough to have a comma in it.
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Re: When everyone else is cheating (property taxes)

Postby takeshi » Thu Apr 28, 2016 9:57 am

CarefulBuilder14 wrote:None of the homes, as far as I know, were really over-assessed - it's just that everyone wants to pay less than they should be, and town officials either don't care or don't have the time for lawsuits and do a deal.

How are you determining whether or not a property is over-assessed? Tax value and market value are not the same thing. When my wife and I were home shopping we were shocked to find out that property taxes would be nearly as much as the mortgage so, yes, we do contest property tax valuations.

CarefulBuilder14 wrote:They don't realize they're saying "F you" to their neighbors when they authorize some law firm that mass-mailed them with the idea to challenge it.

It's all a matter of perspective. The other take is that those who don't contest property values are shooting themselves in the foot or choosing to accept the higher tax on their property.

CarefulBuilder14 wrote:Are there any ways to fix the system, rather than just cheat it?

Any system can be fixed. The practical question is whether or not it's worthwhile to the individual to overhaul the entire system or to make the most of the system as it is (though the two aren't mutually exclusive).

The same can be said for credit (and the IRS, traffic courts and many, many other examples). The system isn't perfect. Are you going to let your credit suffer, expecting the system to be overhauled or are you going to work on making the most of your credit with the existing system? Your usage of this and other credit sites would indicate the latter to me.

CarefulBuilder14 wrote:My point is more that if we can't do the simplest thing...to get allegedly friendly neighbors to cooperate on a tax that's reasonably fair and easy to determine...what hope do we have for anything else (like income tax fairness and reform)?

There's definitely a lot of momentum to overcome with any topic like this. Convince the masses and it can be done. Problem is that most don't care, aren't interested, are benefitting from the status quo, etc.

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Re: When everyone else is cheating (property taxes)

Postby rhipsher » Mon May 16, 2016 9:47 am

When you receive that letter every year that says they have valued your property at far more than it's worth then you have to fight it. Once it is set in stone it cannot be reversed. I boarder two counties and had to fight it in both. I had bought my home in 2001 and in 6 months I get a letter stating that my property had been valued at $30K more than I paid for it. I don't think so. So you go downtown to the tax board and when they call your name you explain why you don't agree with their assessment. And they have their lawyers there and two people on computers running the comps and seeing if you had made any upgrades to the property. And most of the time they didn't raise it. But you have to go fight it otherwise you will be paying taxes on a property that is worth far less. It's just another scam to suck more money out of you.



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