Once property tax bills hit the mail, that’s precisely how long you have to file an appeal based on value, according to Joe Wszolek, president-elect of the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of REALTORS® (GNIAR), and an Indiana Certified Level III Assessor/Appraiser who serves as president of the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA) for the Porter County Assessor.
While Porter County residents had the opportunity to review a Notice of Assessment of Land and Improvements “Form 11” in October, which then sets the 45-day window for appeal in motion for them, Lake County residents will be waiting until their bills hit the mail in order for the 45-day clock to start ticking.
According to the latest check on the Tax Record website at in-lake-treasurer2.governmax.com, they were last updated on April 10, and if you’re bill is paid through escrow like mine, there’s a red message that reads:
“Our records indicate that the property taxes were billed to a lender.”
Several tables of information follow that, explaining how your “2013 pay 2014” Property Taxes are calculated, leading up to the First Installment (Spring) Amount Due, which is delinquent after Monday, May 12, 2014, and Second Installment (Fall) Amount Due, which is delinquent after Monday, November 10, 2014.
Those payment dates apply for all Indiana residents – Porter County included (their tax bills were mailed out early last week).
However, the big difference between Lake and Porter County is the ability to review “Form 11” and file an appeal well before the actual bills hit the mail.
“Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder has completed work on approximately 1,900 tax assessment appeals that were filed in the fall,” Wszolek said. “He made it a goal for his office to complete the work on these appeals in time for the spring tax statements so they would reflect credits rather than refunds, which are more costly to the county.”
Whether you live Porter County and have already received your “Form 11” or you live Lake County and receive your tax bill in the mail at some point this spring, 45 days is the magic number to remember.
“For Lake County residents the 45 days start with the date of mailing for the actual tax bill,” Wszolek explained. “Stating that your taxes are too high is not grounds for an appeal, however if you can prove that the assessment based on value is too high you have grounds for an appeal. It’s important to remember that you must adhere to that 45-day limit, and no evidence is necessary to file an appeal. However, you do need to fill out a form that’s available online, and it’s my recommendation that you make a copy of it and have the Assessor date stamp your copy so you have a record that you filed within the 45 days.”
To begin gathering your evidence, Wszolek said you need to physically go to the Lake County Assessor’s Office or your local Township Assessor’s Office if you live in Calumet, Cedar Creek, Center, Eagle Creek, Hanover, Hobart, North, Ross, St. John, Winfield or West Creek Townships – North Township is only available a the Lake County Assessor’s Office – and request a copy of your record card. While some of the information is online in Lake County, the actual record card will provide more detail. (Porter County residents can retrieve their actual record cards online.)
“You’ll want to start with the physical attributes of your property - square footage, number of plumbing fixtures, finished or unfinished basement, garage, covered porch, patio and so on,” he added. “If you find that these are not correct, you can use ‘Form 133’ to Petition for a Correction of an Error. This form can be filed at any time (the 45-day window does not apply) and any correction will be made for three years if applicable – including the current tax year and two previous years. There’s a good chance once you correct the physical it can bring down your value. But, if everything is right with the physical, then you will need to gather market evidence for your ‘Form 130’ Property Tax Assessment Appeal, and it’s important to realize that an appeal for value applies only to the the current tax year.”
According to Wszolek, you will need concrete evidence and the best evidence is a market-based sale of that date range (2013 pay 2014 assessment are based on sales from 2013 and the first two months of 2014) would be with the listing history where the sale was between unrelated parties, the house was on the market for a reasonable amount of time and there was no undue influence during the transaction. The next best evidence is an appraisal by a licensed appraiser.
“In the property tax appeal process we are looking at market value in use versus market value,“ he explained. “The assessed value should reflect the amount a willing buyer would pay for the property at the time of the assessment.”
Once the written notice of appeal based on value is filed, the local assessing official will forward it to the county PTABOA and attempt to hold a preliminary meeting to resolve as many issues as possible. The assessing official will forward a copy of the results of the preliminary meeting to PTABOA, which will review the agreement (if one is reached) and may change the assessment. If an agreement was not reached or if an informal meeting was not held, PTABOA must hold a hearing within 180 days of the filing of an appeal, giving the taxpayer at least 30 days notice of the hearing date. After the hearing, a decision is rendered, and PTABOA will issue a written determination. If the taxpayer disagrees with the final determination, or PTABOA does not hold a timely hearing or give notice of the decision within 120 days after the hearing, the taxpayer may appeal to the Indiana Board of Tax Review (IBTR), which is the final decision maker in the process.