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Attorney Ben Proto - The Musings of a Mad Lawyer

Thursday, January 29, 2015

How to Appeal your Property Tax Assessment

It’s that time again, local property tax assessments. Many communities saw a decrease in property values, which will mean, in many cases, an increase in the mill rate.

Connecticut assesses property, for property tax purposes, at 70% of fair market value, as determined by the tax assessor. By way of example, if the tax assessor determines that your property has a fair market value of $250,000.00 the assessment for property taxes would be $175,000.00 ($250,000.00 x 70%). The mil rate, which is set by the local legislative body, would then be applied to the assessed value, in this example $175,000.00. Assuming the mil rate is 30 mils, the property assessed at $175,000.00 would pay an annual real property tax of $5,250.00 ($175,000.00 x .030).

If you believe that your assessment is too high, you have certain rights, but, you must follow strict time frames.  The local tax assessor must certified the municipality’s grand list to the State of Connecticut by January 31, 2015. If you wish to appeal your assessment, you may do so by filing with the local Board of Assessment Appeals, (BAA) an appeal not later than February 20, 2015. You must file the appeal on a form prescribed by the tax assessor. This form is available on most town websites at the tax assessor’s page, or by going to the tax assessor’s office.

At the appeal hearing, you will meet with a member of the Board of Assessment Appeal, this is a resident of your town, who has been appointed by the local legislative body, ie Town Council, Board of Aldermen, RTM, etc, to sit on the BAA and hear appeals. This person may (and usually does not) have any background in the area of property valuation. 

In order to make a cogent case as to why you believe the valuation given to your property is incorrect, you will need to tell the BAA member more than, I think it is too high.  Look for property sales in your neighborhood, you can check websites, such as  Zillow.com or realtor.com to find comparable values. In addition, must town’s assessment records are online at the tax assessor’s page of the town’s website.  Look at your neighbor’s assessments. Do they have more or less square footage than your house, more or fewer bathrooms or bedrooms? Finished vs unfinished basements, acreage, wetlands, etc all go into determining value.  The best piece of information you can have, but will cost you, is a property appraiser done by a certified appraiser. I would not recommend this unless you believe the savings in annual taxes for the first year would more than outweigh the cost of the appraisal.

Once you have the information, being cognizant of your hearing date, go to the hearing prepared. Please be respectful of the member you meeting with, he or she hears a lot of appeals and many people do not treat their neighbors, who are serving the town, nicely. Remember, this person did not set your valuation, they are only there to determine if, with the evidence presented in a short time frame, they agree with you that the assessment should be reduced.  You will not get a decision before you leave, as the entire membership of the BAA must vote on the recommendation of the member who heard your appeal. You will be notified by mail as to the outcome.

If you still think that your assessment is still too high after your hearing, you have the right to appeal the decision of the BAA to Superior Court.

If you have any questions regarding this process, please feel free to contact me at ben@protolawfirm.com.

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