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Understanding Your Property Taxes

by Joe Hanoa


There is little else in life that sends a shudder through homeowners then the anticipation of what their next property tax bill will state. In some areas of the country, a significant amount of tax revenue is on the backs of personal property owners making this tax the number one burden for homeowners. Do you understand your taxes? If not, you should as your lack of knowledge could cost you thousands of dollars.

In many locales, property taxes are due on a quarterly, semi-annually, or annual basis. The higher your tax burden, the more likely that a municipality will allow you to determine how often payments may be made. In some areas of the country, the state legislature makes that determination.

When your tax bill is due, it is quite frankly: due. In many cases you are given up to ten days after the due date to make payment, but going beyond that means your taxes are in arrears and you will face penalties and interest charges. Let this go on too long and the municipality could place a lien on your home, even force you into foreclosure. That is one reason why most locales require you to make monthly property tax payments with your mortgage payment. In addition, you could be required to carry an escrow amount to cover your upcoming property taxes. In this situation, the mortgage company will send payment to your municipality on your behalf.

Should your home be under construction, then the taxes you are paying will be estimated by the municipality. Once construction has been completed a corrected copy of your tax bill will be sent to you. If there is a shortage involved, you may be required to write out a check on the spot for the shortfall or spread that amount over the next several months up to one year.

If there is an error with your property taxes or you believe you are paying too much, you must follow the procedures listed on the bill to respond accordingly. If there are no instructions given, simply call the phone number on your invoice to speak with a clerk in the tax office. You may be able to speak with the tax collector who can go over your bill with you. If there is still a disagreement, you can protest your bill formally and go through a court hearing to air your case. If you lose, you will be expected to pay whatever charges have been levied.

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