Minnesota has what is known as an ad valorem property tax, which means property taxes are divided among taxable properties according to their value. Assessors gather data from Oct 1st, 2010 through September 30th, 2011 (known as the sales study period) to calculate the “market value” for January 2nd, 2012.
Homeowners have between April 1st, 2012 and June 30th, 2012 to appeal their estimated market value and/or the classification of their property, because as of July 1st they typically become final.
Is this to your advantage?
In a market where prices are rising this usually works to the homeowners benefit, because the assessor is generally using older sales. However, in a declining market the reverse is true; you have the period from October 1st through January 1st that sales aren’t being considered for that tax period. Sales that occur during that period are used for the next sales study period.
This means that you could have a home just like yours sell down the block for several thousand dollars less than your current assessed value, and that sale wouldn’t be used to calculate your taxable value for over a year.
The five most frequently asked questions:
- Do you have to let the assessor in? No. MN Statute 273.20 clearly states that you don’t have to let the assessor inspect your property. Many assessors and counties indicate that they have a right to inspect your property, which they do; however, you also have the right not to let them into your home (see below).
- Are there consequences for not letting them in? Yes & No. They can’t haul you off to the slammer if you don’t, but they do get to make some assumptions (the condition, basement finishing, updates, etc.) about your property if you don’t let them inspect your home. This could affect your taxes in a big way. If you think your taxes are too high it might be because they’ve made some prior assumptions that may be incorrect.
- All the assessor is trying to do is raise my taxes? Not in the sense that they’re out to get you. Nearly all of the tax assessors I’ve ever talked to actually want to get it right. They don’t want to keep getting phone calls from homeowners complaining about their assessed value being too high; trust me they’ve told me many times about those phone calls. All they’re trying to do is estimate the fair market value using what is known as CAMA (Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal).
- What if I feel my taxes are too high? This is the sticking point, because if you don’t let the assessor view your property there isn’t much you can do about lowering, or appealing your taxes until you do. So if you’re happy with your assessed value, and you’re not comfortable with having someone walk through your home, then don’t let them in. However, if you feel that you’re being shafted by the “Tax Man”, then you’re going to have to let them inspect your home.
- What should I do to get my taxes lowered? Pray like heck! No seriously, you have several options: Talk directly with the assessor and tell them about your concerns; supply them with any data that you may think will lower your value. You can appeal to your equalization board in the beginning of the year (around March or April-depending on the municipality); which, depending on where you live will most likely be at city hall or the county/township. And finally, if you’re still not happy you can go to MN Tax Court.
The MN State law reads as follows:
273.20 Assessor May Enter Dwellings, Buildings, or Structures.
Any officer authorized by law to assess property for taxation may, when necessary to the proper performance of duties, enter any dwelling-house, building, or structure, and view the same and the property therein.
Any officer authorized by law to assess property for ad valorem tax purposes shall have reasonable access to land and structures as necessary for the proper performance of their duties. A property 0wner may refuse to allow an assessor to inspect their property. This refusal by the property owner must be either verbal or expressly stated in a letter to the county assessor. If the assessor is denied access to view a property, the assessor is authorized to estimate the property’s estimated market value by making assumptions believed appropriate concerning the property’s finish and condition.
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