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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why Does Your Devalued Property Have Such a High Tax Rate?

By PAIGE BOWERS / ATLANTA – Sun Jan 11, 9:55 pm ET


Are your property taxes rising while the value of your property falls? Join the multitudes of Americans in the same predicament. In Atlanta, property values have tumbled over the past year by as much as 12% but an Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership study of high foreclosure areas found that the owners of those properties would have had to pay an extra $70 million in taxes because of overvalued but official appraisals. In states from New York to Arizona, angry citizen groups are lobbying their state legislatures - already facing budget shortfalls themselves - to address the discrepancies.

Tax assessors across the country have seen an uptick in the number of property owners challenging their propertys' appraisal value. The Wall Street Journal reported that 15,000 residents - instead of the usual 500 - in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana had requested a review of their 2008 tax bills. And the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Cuyahoga County, which has about 1,300 foreclosures a month, saw three times as many appeals as in 2007.

Atlanta attorney Edward Lindsey says he saw the writing on the wall when he first ran for state representative in 2004. As he went door to door canvassing for votes in one of the city's wealthier enclaves, countless residents told him of paying property taxes that didn't reflect the true value of their property, but a value fueled by an assessment of their neighbor's recent renovation. Lindsey may have felt a little guilty. He and his wife had just completed what he described as "an upgrade" - he tore down one house and replaced it with a larger one - to the property they had lived on for the past 20 years. "It's not fair for [my neighbors] to have their property reassessed because of the renovations we've done," says Lindsey, a Republican legislator since 2005. "Property taxes should be focused on what you invested in the property rather than the unrealized gain, which is subject to wild variations."

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