How To Get Help Paying Property Taxes

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Key Takeaways

  • Property taxes can add thousands of dollars per year to the cost of homeownership.
  • Paying your property taxes via an escrow account can take some of the sting out of a hefty tax bill.
  • If you're struggling to to pay your property tax bill, contact your local tax collector for options.
  • If you think your tax collector has made a mistake assessing the value of your property, you can appeal and seek a reduced assessment.
  • Seek property tax payment assistance such as installment agreements, exemptions, or deferrals.

Perhaps one of the more frustrating aspects of homeownership is property taxes. They are levied annually, and can reach into the thousands of dollars, depending on where you live. Although they can be a major burden, they don’t have to be. Learn what you can do when you need help paying property taxes.

When Property Taxes Can Bite 

Property taxes are a part of life, but they don’t always have to be a problem. Many homeowners choose to have a mortgage escrow account into which they pay for their property tax and homeowners insurance in monthly installments. This means they’re never faced with a large lump-sum tax bill.

However, your property taxes can still go up regularly, when your property is reassessed—even if your income is not moving in the same direction. If the county decides the value of your home has increased, your taxes will rise accordingly.

Note

Some counties conduct property reassessment on a yearly basis. It can also occur when a house is sold or new construction is completed.

Let’s say you’ve just bought your first house. Online records show the property has previously been assessed and taxed at a value of $150,000. However, the real estate market is competitive, and homes in your area are selling at high prices, so you paid $250,000 for the house. The county may use the higher sales price of your home as part of its assessment the next time your property taxes roll around.

This hike in taxes can be especially challenging if you’ve opted to pay them all at once in a lump sum rather than through an escrow account.

Challenge Your Tax Assessment

You don’t have to accept the county’s assessment of your home. The National Taxpayers Union Foundation estimates that between 30% and 60% of taxable property in the U.S. is overassessed.

Note

If you think your home’s latest assessment value is too high, you can file an appeal that challenges your tax assessment.

The process to appeal your property tax assessment will vary depending on where you live, but a good checklist can help you. Be aware, however, that some counties will charge a fee to file the appeal. Although the process—which likely will include coming up with “comparables” of similar properties at lower prices, photos of your own home, or other evidence to support your argument—may be time-consuming, the majority of those who file an appeal win at least a partial victory, which means this is a good option to consider.

Find a Property Tax Assistance Program

If your appeal doesn’t work or isn’t an option, there are still a few different ways to get help when your property taxes come due.

Abatements

Property tax abatements limit or sometimes even eliminate taxes on your home. They’re location-dependent, but some programs help those facing hardship or poverty. Others are meant to incentivize buying or renovating property in specific areas. For example, the state of California offers the Mills Act, which provides tax abatements to those renovating historic homes.

Deferrals

Some states and localities have programs that allow you to defer your tax payments. Eligibility for these programs differs, but qualifications may be based on age, or income, or health and other factors.

Depending on the program, you may owe deferred taxes with accrued interest when the property in question is no longer your primary residence.

Payment Plans

If you can’t pay your taxes all at once, you may be eligible for a payment plan that allows you to pay in installments. Depending on where you live, these programs may mean you can complete the payments without incurring fees or interest.

Exemptions

Property tax exemptions alleviate the tax burden on homeowners for a variety of reasons. Check with your local government on the details, but good examples include homestead exemptions for primary residences, agricultural property tax exemptions, and disabled veteran exemptions.

Note

Some military veterans may be eligible for a complete exemption from property taxes, depending on their Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability rating. This can save them thousands of dollars each year.

Other Ways To Deal With Rising Property Taxes

If reducing your property taxes isn’t an option, you’ll need to consider other ways to help manage those taxes. You can try cutting your spending or reorienting your life to lower your cost of living. If you really need an injection of cash, you can try to find a second job that will help cover those expenses. Selling your home may be a last-ditch option; you can move to a location with lower property taxes or search for a home that offers abatements.

What Happens If You Don’t Pay Property Taxes?

Property taxes must be paid. There are significant consequences for failing to pay. In the short term, you may face fines and penalties for nonpayment. Depending on how long it’s been since you’ve paid your taxes, your property can sold by the local tax authority to cover the cost of delinquent taxes, penalties, and interest.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When are property taxes due?

Property tax due dates vary; you’ll need to check with your individual county to learn when yours are due.

How are property taxes calculated?

Property taxes are “ad valorem” taxes, which means they’re calculated according to the value of your property. Once that’s assessed, the value is multiplied by your local effective tax rate.

How do I find out how much I’ve paid in property taxes?

There are some easy ways to figure out how much you’ve paid in property taxes:

  • Check Form 1098 from your mortgage company. Box 10 will contain the information detailing how much you’ve paid.
  • Search for property records via your local county tax assessor’s website.


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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Taxpayers Union Foundation. "Are You Paying Too Much in Taxes?"

  2. California State Controller. "Property Tax Postponement Program."

  3. Veterans United Home Loans. "All Veteran Property Tax Exemptions by State."

  4. Napa (CA) County Tax Collector. "Delinquent Property Taxes."

  5. Intuit Turbotax. "Where Can I Find Out How Much Property (Real Estate) Tax I Paid?"

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