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Making a case to the tax man Property owners appeal for rate cuts JOHN WISELY, KATHLEEN GRAY and STEVE NEAVLING Detroit Free Press, March 28, 2010

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Presentation on theme: "Making a case to the tax man Property owners appeal for rate cuts JOHN WISELY, KATHLEEN GRAY and STEVE NEAVLING Detroit Free Press, March 28, 2010"— Presentation transcript:

1 Making a case to the tax man Property owners appeal for rate cuts JOHN WISELY, KATHLEEN GRAY and STEVE NEAVLING Detroit Free Press, March 28, 2010

2 Seeking Relief Property values across Michigan fell hard in 2009, reducing tax bills with them, but many homeowners wanted more. So, in city and township halls across the state this month, theyve confronted the tax man seeking more relief. Review boards heard thousands of stories of unfair treatment. A typical one: My neighbors homes are as big and nice as mine but you say mine is worth $20,000 more, making my taxes higher? After the protests, the boards decide whos right: assessor or homeowner. Or maybe they compromise.

3 What does it take to beat the tax man? For homeowners in Michigan, it's mostly about the comps -- comparable properties that have sold recently. Their prices, often broken down by a price per square foot, make the difference between winning and losing an appeal. The overwhelming majority of homeowners in Michigan will get a tax cut this year because their home prices and, in most cases, their taxable values, sank. Still, many -- aware that homes in their neighborhoods are selling at amazingly low prices -- asked for even steeper reductions. For simplicity, in the following examples, we have used figures that show what assessors say a property is worth, which is actually twice what the actual assessment is.

4 He did his homework Location: Troy Homeowner: Mike Kowalski Purchase price and year: $280,000 in assessment: $300, assessment: $286,000 His request: $256,000

5 One of the Smallest Colonials "I'm the guy with one of the smallest colonials in the sub," Kowalski said. "I don't feel that's a bona fide reason to over-assess me." The three-person board agreed, at the encouragement of assessor Nino Licari. "He did his homework, boys and girls," Licari said. "I don't think you need to belabor it." The board reduced the value of his home $15,000 to $271,000, which will reduce his tax bill about $260 a year.

6 How He Did It! In making his case, Kowalski noted that he has the original carpet, his cabinets are from 1983 and his in-ground pool is 24 years old. "We've got the pool valued at $8,000," Licari said. When Kowalski asked board members if they had any questions, Borys Potapenko didn't hesitate. "Do you have a finished basement?" Potapenko said. In Troy, hearings are in a small conference room at City Hall. Three board members and the assessor sit on one side of the table opposite the homeowners. Licari uses a laptop computer and a projector to display photos of the home, maps of the neighborhood and assessment documents. Unlike many communities which inform residents by mail of their decisions, thereby avoiding facing angry residents, Troy gives residents an immediate answer to their face. "It makes for a little more give and take," Licari said.


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