June 12, 2023

The Property Tax Appeal Process Explained for DC, Virginia, Maryland, and Florida

The Property Tax Appeal Process Explained for DC, Virginia, Maryland, and Florida

Taxes are a part of life, but you don’t expect to be shocked or surprised when you open up your property tax bill. If you think your taxes are too high, it is possible to appeal the assessed value and lower your property tax bill. Each jurisdiction has its own property tax appeal process and deadlines, and it’s important to read their government websites for the latest information. We have highlights and links below for the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, and Florida!

Real Estate Tax Process

Every year, a tax assessor evaluates the market value of your home based on several variables including the land, location, legal jurisdiction, and property characteristics. Each jurisdiction applies its tax rate(s) to the assessed value to calculate the amount of property tax owed. An assessment letter and tax bill is mailed to the property owner.

Because many property tax assessors determine tax rates in a mass assessment, your property tax bill may not be completely accurate.

Common reasons a property owner files an appeal include but are not limited to:

  • A change of ownership or control;
  • Recent local sales are less than the assessment amount; and
  • Information on the assessment is incorrect.

It is your right to appeal your assessment, which impacts your property tax bill. Be aware that if you made improvements to your property since the last assessment your assessment may actually increase your property tax bill and that a full appeal process can take months or even years to complete.

Tax Appeal Overview

To be clear, you can appeal your property tax assessment, not the tax rate set by your local tax authority. Here are six common steps for appealing your property assessment. Scroll down to learn more about the specific process for DC, Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Florida!

1. Receive and Read The Property Tax Assessment Letter

When you receive your property assessment letter in the mail, review the information line by line. The letter should include details about your property including the lot size, legal description, and assessed value of the house and land. Make sure all of the information is accurate.

The letter should also include your property tax rate, including any special taxes that are applicable to your location. The tax amount you owe is then calculated by taking your assessed value multiplied by the tax rate.

If the assessed value listed in the letter is higher than it should be, take action immediately. Each location has different timelines, but in many cases you need to appeal within a month of receiving your assessment letter. The letter should tell you how to appeal the assessment, but the links under each location can also give you more information about the process.

2. Decide If An Appeal Is Worth Your Time

Calculate how much money you stand to gain if your property assessment amount was lower. The property tax average for a single-family home was $3,901 in 2022, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.

Where you live and the tax rate there may impact how much you could save. For example, Rocket Mortgage reports that Washington, DC had the fifth-lowest tax rate in the United States in 2023 while Virginia ranked 19th, Florida ranked 24th, and Maryland ranked 31st.

Keep the following in mind as you weigh your options:

  • You are appealing your property assessment, not your tax rate.
  • There is a small chance you will increase your assessment.
  • Reducing an assessment right before listing a home could hurt your sales price.
  • Work with a local tax professional to examine all property tax exemptions, including those based on age, location, disability, military service, etc.

3. Research and Verify the Information in the Assessment Letter

Now that you’ve decided to move forward with the appeal, do the research to find the correct information for your property. Did the property tax assessment accurately state the size of the lot? The number of bedrooms? Bathrooms? The number of fireplaces or garages?

Correcting inaccurate information in a property assessment is simpler to appeal than market value alone.

4. Collect Supporting Documentation for Your Appeal

No matter where you appeal, it is critical that you provide strong evidence to support your claim, as SMART Partner Evelyn Miller, Esq. advised recently.

This may include:

  • Contacting your real estate agent and requesting a recent comparative market analysis and 3-5 comparable properties to submit with your appeal.
  • Checking home value tools like® or Homebot to find an approximate value of your home.
  • Hiring an appraiser to provide a professional opinion of your property’s value.
  • Document similarly valued properties that are “superior” to yours in the comps. For example, if a neighbor has a comparable home with a similar assessment but they recently added a sunroom while your property was damaged by a recent hailstorm, you may get “relief based on equity.”

5. Submit Your Case to the Local Property Assessor

Follow your local tax authority’s instructions on how to proceed with this step. Typically it involves applying for a formal review with your local county assessor to present your case. Ensure you adhere to the appeals process timeline and requirements, including deadlines, forms, tax payments, and instructions for submitting evidence.

You should receive a decision from the assessor in writing. If you disagree with the assessor’s decision, you may continue with your appeal to the designated board.

6. Submit a Formal Appeal

The next step is to submit your appeal to the designated board for review. This step can take months depending on how large the appeals caseload is.

If the formal review to the board is unsuccessful, some jurisdictions state that you can file a lawsuit in Circuit Court to dispute the assessment. This process can take months or years depending on the court’s schedule.

Property Taxes in DC

The Council of the District of Columbia sets the taxation rates for each property class and assesses property values once a year. Property owners are notified if their assessed value changes from the previous year.

Property tax rates are then applied to the assessed values. The first half of the tax bill is mailed in February and is due by March 15, and the second half is mailed in August and is due by September 15.

To appeal a property assessment value, file as soon as you receive your notification. The deadline to file your First Level Administrative Review is April 1. (If April 1 falls on a weekend, then the deadline to file is the next business day.) After that step is an appeal before the Real Property Tax Appeals Commission and then the DC Superior Court.

Learn more about the appeal process, including how to submit an appeal online or via the form, on the Office of Tax and Revenue website.

Property Taxes in Virginia

Visit your city’s or county’s website to learn more about the property tax assessment process.

Arlington County

  • March 1st is the deadline for appealing your property tax assessments to the Department of Real Estate Assessments.

City of Alexandria

  • March 15th is the deadline to request a review of the January assessment.
  • June 1st is the deadline to request an appeal of the January assessment.

City of Fairfax

  • April 7th is the deadline to submit an administrative appeal.
  • June 30th is the deadline to file an appeal with the Board of Equalization (BOE).

City of Falls Church

  • April 17th is the deadline for appealing an annual assessment to the Assessor.
  • June 2 is the deadline for appealing to the Board of Equalization (BOE).

Fairfax County, including Braddock, City of Fairfax, Clifton, Dranesville, Dulles, Franconia, Herndon, Mason, McLean, Mt. Vernon, Providence, Reston, Springfield, Sully, Tysons, Vienna

  • April 3rd is the deadline to submit an administrative appeal application.
  • June 1st is the deadline to file an appeal with the Board of Equalization (BOE).

Loudoun County, including Hamilton, Hillsboro, Leesburg, Lovettsville, Middleburg, Purcellville, Round Hill

  • March 8th is the deadline to submit the online request for assessment review with the Office of the Commissioner of Revenue.
  • June 1st is the deadline to file an application with the Loudoun County Board of Equalization (BOE).

Prince William County

  • June 1st is the annual deadline for filing an Administrative Appeal with the Real Estate Assessments Office.

Property Taxes in Maryland

Local State assessment offices, one in each county and in Baltimore City, conduct real estate property assessments on a three-year rolling basis. The assessments are then certified by the Maryland Department of Assessment and Taxation to local governments to the local assessment offices. The certified assessments are converted into property tax bills by applying applicable property tax rates.

Annual property tax bills are typically sent to property owners in July or August. Appeals must be made within 45 days of the assessment notice date using the online form.

Learn more about the three levels of appeals at the Maryland Department of Assessment and Taxation website.

Property Taxes in Florida

Florida real estate properties are assessed by county property appraisers before January 1 every year. In August, the property appraiser sends the Notice of Proposed Property Taxes to each property owner. After local governments set annual budgets, the county tax collectors send tax bills to property owners in late October or November, which are due by the following March 31.

Property owners have the right to appeal:

  • The assessment of the property’s value, according to the appraiser
  • A denial of your application for an exemption (e.g., veterans, senior citizen, or homestead).
  • A denial of your application for property classification (e.g., agricultural or historic).
  • A denial of your tax deferral application.
  • A determination that a change of ownership, a change of ownership or control, or a qualifying improvement has occurred.

You can appeal a property assessment in any or all of these methods:

  • Informal Conference with the Property Appraiser
  • Petition the Value Adjustment Board (VAB)
  • File Suit in Court

Learn more about the process on the Florida Department of Revenue website.

DISCLAIMER: The information gathered here is deemed reliable as of the date of publication, but each aforementioned agency has the right to change its information and processes. We strongly recommend that you meet with a Florida Tax Accountant and Real Estate Attorney before making a purchase. For additional information on this topic contact Evelyn Miller, Partner, at 202-753-7400.

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