The two most common statements made by property owners are “I think my property assessment is too high.” And “My taxes are too high,” which is always followed by the question “What can I do about it?” With the decline in the housing market over the past several years, property owners are justifiably concerned about rising property taxes. So how can a property owner turn his/her frustration into effective protest and a successful appeal of their assessed value?
First, separate the issue of higher taxes from the issue of the accuracy of the assessed value of your property. Did your property tax bill go up while the assessed value of your property remained the same? Assessors only value your property; they do not establish your tax bill. Voters authorize the Town & School Board expenditures at the Town & School Board Annual Meetings, and these approved expenditures, along with State and County requirements, establish your property tax bill.
Second, understand how the value for your property was determined. If you do file an appeal, the following information will help you construct your case.
1.) Find several properties similar to yours, in age, size, amenities and neighborhood. These are called “comparables;”
2.) Find out what the assessed value for these properties. If they have sold recently, what was the sale price?
3.) Visit the Assessor’s office for a copy of your “property record card.” While basic information is available via the Town’s online database, the card on file with the Assessing Office contains the complete detailed record of your assessment. Assessing Office staff can review your assessment with you and answer any question you may have about your assessment. The Assessing Office can also provide you with other information you may need to evaluate your assessment, find comparables, and file for abatement.
Frequently Asked Questions about Assessments:
Q: What is market value?
A: Finding the market value of your property involves discovering the price most people would pay for it in its present condition. It's not quite that simple, because the assessor has to find what this value would be for every property, no matter how big or how small. This process is done each year on new and improved properties, because the market value of almost everything changes from one year to the next - as we all know. Towns in New Hampshire have traditionally not maintained assessments at 100% of market value on a yearly basis.
Q: Why have a property tax?
A: Properties are appraised so that those of us who want the advantage of having schools, fire and police protection, and other public benefits (which means just about all of us) can absorb our fair share of the cost, in proportion to the amount of money our individual properties are worth. The property tax should be part of a well-balanced revenue system. It is a more stable source of money than sales and income taxes because it does not fluctuate when communities have recessions. When the community spends your tax dollars on better schools, parks, and so on, your property values rise. Some of the windfall benefits you receive are recaptured by the property tax.
Q: I reviewed my assessment online, and noticed that the Town has information on my house that isn’t correct. How can I get the information corrected?
A: Contact the Assessing Office and inform them of the suspected discrepancy. In some cases, it can be a misunderstanding about the terminology used or the method used by the Assessor to code an area of your property. In other cases, there is an actual error on the card. In these instances, the Assessing Office staff will discuss the remedies that can be used to correct erroneous information, and your rights to appeal your assessment. In cases where there is a suspected error, the Assessor will need to perform a full inspection of the property, both exterior and interior, to ensure that the data on your property record is accurate. The Assessing Office recommends that all property owners request and review their property record card annually, or at the minimum, whenever there has been a change to your property which may affect the value. This is the best method of ensuring that your property assessment is correct, which in turn keeps your property taxes as low as possible.
Q: I haven’t done anything to increase the value of my property, but my property taxes keep going up. Why?
A: The Assessor’s primary responsibility is to determine the value of your property, so that you pay only your fair share of the taxes for services provided by the Town, County and State. The amount of property tax that you pay is determined by applying the tax rate to your property’s assessed value. The tax rate is based on the costs to provide these services, not your assessed value.
Q: I just purchased my property for less than what the property is assessed. Why doesn’t my assessment change based on my purchase price? Doesn’t that establish market value?
A: Not necessarily. There can be circumstances that affect the sale price of a property. Foreclosures, short-sales, auctions, family sales and Mortgage Company sales after a foreclosure are just some of the types of sales where the sale price does not accurately reflect the market value of a property. These sales must be scrutinized carefully to ensure that they reflect the actual property value, and that there were no special considerations that may have influenced/affected the sale price.
Some states use the sale price solely to establish the assessment. When this methodology is used, properties that haven’t sold for a number of years often have significantly lower assessments than newer or more recently sold properties, regardless of the current fair market value. With this methodology, the majority of the tax burden shifts to new residents rather than distributed equally among all residents. This type of methodology is not used in New Hampshire.
Q: My deed states that I have more/less acreage than I’m assessed for. How can I get that corrected?
A: If you have a recent survey of your property, or if one is on file with Town Hall or the Hillsborough County Registry of Deeds, we will review the available copy to ensure that the acreage shown for your property is correct. If no plan/survey is on file for your property, or a recent survey has not been conducted, the Assessing Office requires that a new survey be created prior to any acreage changes. The new survey will correct any discrepancies in your acreage, and once that has been completed and recorded, we will adjust your acreage to that shown on the survey.
Q: I’ve reviewed my property record card and I didn’t find any errors for my property. I still feel my assessment is too high. How can I ask for a reconsideration/adjustment/ appeal of my property value?
A: If your opinion of the value of the property differs from the Town’s assessment, please contact the Assessing Office. The Assessing Office staff there will be happy to explain the appeal process, and deadlines. Please also reference the next session about property abatement.
Q: How can I determine what my property’s fair market value should be?
A: Every year, the NH Dept. of Revenue Administration calculates the level that the Town property assessments compare to the fair market value, based on qualifying sales between October 1st to September 30th (for the 2014 Year, these sales would be from October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014). This is called the “Equalized Sales Rate” or the “EQ Ratio.” Based on these sales, an average of fair market sales to the Town’s assessments is calculated. For 2013, the EQ Ratio was 97.6%, or the Town’s assessments were averaging 2.4% below the average fair market sale. The 2014 EQ Ratio should be available between January-March 2015.
To calculate the equalized assessment of your property, simply divide the assessment by the municipality’s equalization ratio (assessment ÷ ratio).
Example: $250,000 Assessed Property Value
÷ 0.976 Town 2013 Equalized Ratio, expressed as a whole number
$256,100 Estimated Fair Market Value (rounded)
Please remember when using this calculation that it is an estimation, based on the average sales price of qualifying sales occurring in a12 month period for the entire Town, and doesn’t take into account other factors which can affect your assessment.
Abatement, or Appealing your Property Assessment to the Board of Selectmen or Town Assessors, RSA 76:16
Any person aggrieved by the assessment of a tax and who has complied with any and all legal requirements may, on or before March 1st annually, following the date of notice of tax, and not afterwards, apply in writing to the selectmen or assessors for an abatement of the tax.
Filing for Abatement
In accordance with RSA 76:16, any property owner who feels that their assessment is not correct may file for abatement of their property assessment. In accordance with this law, property owners may file for abatement once the final notice of tax has been received by the property owner, until March 1st. The “Final Notice of Tax” refers to the date the BTLA determines to be the date the last tax bill was sent by the Town of Hollis. Since the Town of Hollis bills twice yearly, you must appeal after the second issue bill and not before. The second issue tax bill establishes the final tax liability for the year, and is usually sent to property owners mid to the end of October.
To determine which tax bill is the final or second half payment of the current Tax Year, look at your Tax Bill. At the top right hand side, there will be a “Reference No.” This number shows the Tax Year, followed by a “1” or a “2”, and then this is followed by an additional series of numbers, for example: 2014-2-123456. The first issue bill of the year will have a “1” following the Tax Year; the final notice of tax, or the second issue bill, will have a “2”.
Once the final notice tax, or the second half tax bill, has been mailed to property owners, Abatement applications will be available in the Assessing Office at Town Hall, or at the Town of Hollis website. The Assessing Office will not accept any Abatement applications until the final notice of tax has been received by the property owner.
The property owner must file the abatement application with the Assessor’s Office no later than March 1st. Date of filing is the date the application is hand-delivered to the Assessor’s Office, the date postmarked by the Post Office, or receipted by an overnight delivery service. Any abatement applications dropped off at Town Hall after the close of business (3:00 pm) on March 1st will be considered untimely filed. If March 1st falls on a weekend, the deadline will be the next business day, in accordance with State Law.
The Town of Hollis has until July 1st to notify the property owner of the decision to approve or deny the abatement application. This is referred to as the “decision notice,” and a notice is sent to all property owners who file for abatement, regardless of the outcome.
If the Property Owner does not agree with the decision of the Town, the property owner may file an appeal with the BTLA or the Superior Court, but not both:
· No earlier than:
(a) receiving a decision notice from the Town of Hollis concerning the abatement application; or
(b) after July 1st if there has been no response from the Town of Hollis; and
· No later than September 1st following notice of tax.
The Abatement Application
You must file an abatement application or other document acceptable under RSA 76:16, with the Town by March 1st. By filing the abatement application, you are noticing the Town that you feel your assessment is inaccurate, and the reasons why you feel the assessment should be adjusted. In accordance with RSA 76:16, “Municipalities may abate taxes for “good cause shown”, per RSA 76:16. Good cause is generally established by showing an error in the physical data, assessment calculation, or a disproportionate assessment, as well as other grounds. If your request is based on disproportionate assessment, the property owner has the burden to show the assessment was disproportionate. To carry this burden, the property owner generally must show what the property is worth on April 1st of the year appealed. The property’s market value would then be compared to the assessment by using the municipalities’ assessment ratio. Therefore, comparable sales or other market information is an essential part of most abatement applications.” In other words, you, the property owner, must prove to the Town that your assessment is incorrect, what your property value should have been as of April 1st for the year you are applying, and you must provide some sort of documentation to show how that calculation was arrived at.
There are no required documents that must be used; any document(s) that you can provide to prove an inaccurate assessment can be utilized. An independent appraisal to establish fair market value as of April 1st in the year you are applying is one such document that many property owners have utilized to show proof of value; this is not required, and any cost to have the appraisal created cannot be recovered from the Town. The Assessing Office cannot advise nor assist property owners in filling out the application, but can provide you with copies of property record cards, maps, sales data or other public documents that you may need to document your case.
A physical inspection property will be conducted for all abatements filed. This includes inspection of the exterior and interior of any structures, and land inspection. Refusal to permit such inspection can result in your abatement application being denied, regardless of the property owner’s reason for filing an abatement application.
Property owners should be aware that by filing for abatement does not mean your assessed valuation will change. Some corrections or changes to property assessments can result in a higher assessed valuation. Filing for abatement also does not mean that the Town will find in your favor.
Filing for abatement does not stay payment of collection of taxes. Property taxes are still due by the date stated on the bill, and you will be charged interest on any unpaid amount not paid by the due date. If your application is approved, you will be refunded the amount, with 6% interest.
The text of NH RSA 76:16,”Apportionment, Assessment and Abatement of Taxes” may be found at http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/V/76/76-16.htm . Other statutes may apply.
If you have additional questions, please contact the Assessing Office at (603) 465-2209, ext. 105 or via email at email@example.com
Updated 8-20-14 cc
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