Politics & Government

Sticker shock at your new tax value? Here’s what you need to know to appeal.

Property owners are usually pleased when their home or commercial building goes up in value — except when it’s revaluation time.

Owners across Mecklenburg County got their new tax values for the first time in eight years, with notices sent in the mail Wednesday and new values posted at www.meckreval.com.

Tax Assessor Ken Joyner said the median increase for residential property values was 43 percent, while the median increase for commercial property was 77 percent. That doesn’t necessarily mean owners will see their tax bills jump that much: Tax rates are set by the county commissioners, Charlotte City Council and the boards of the other local municipalities, in a process that’s separate from revaluation. Owners won’t get their new property tax bills until July, after local budgets are set.

But with many owners looking at a big increase in value — some close-in neighborhoods around uptown saw property values double, officials said — many owners are likely to appeal their new valuations. They’ll seek to lower the value to reduce their potential tax bill.

Mecklenburg County

Here are some of the key points to know about appealing your property valuation:

Informal review

Owners have 30 days to request an informal review with the Tax Assessor’s Office, which they can do at www.meckreval.com or by using the form included with the revaluation notice. The office will consider appeals on a case-by-case basis, and, if they agree an error has been made, the value can be adjusted without the homeowner filing a formal appeal to the Board of Equalization and Review.

“They can schedule an appointment with an appraiser,” said Joyner.

Formal appeal

The deadline to file a formal appeal with the Board of Equalization and Review is May 20. Appeal forms are available at www.meckreval.com.

Changing the value

Valid reasons the assessor will consider changing a property’s assessed value include the assessed value being “substantially higher” than the market value it could sell for, the assessed value being significantly different from that of similar, nearby properties, and errors in the data, such as the wrong square footage or lot size being used.

“The burden lies with the taxpayer,” said Larry Shaheen, a political consultant who recently launched a law firm focused on revaluation cases. “You have to back up your claims with data. You have to have evidence.”

A value won’t be changed for reasons such as the percentage increase simply seeming too high, an owner’s inability to pay higher taxes or the original cost of construction.

Do you need a lawyer?

You don’t need a lawyer to appeal your tax value, but you can hire one if you want. Joyner said most informal reviews are conducted by property owners directly.

“They’re going to have to explain their property to an attorney. They might as well explain it to us,” said Joyner. If an appeal makes it to the Board of Equalization and Review, he said it’s more common for owners to have an attorney.

“We would not discourage anyone from making that choice. We just don’t want anyone to feel like they have to make that choice,” he said.

If you have questions, you can call the Tax Assessor’s Office at 980-341-4226 or via email at assessorquestions@mecknc.gov.

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Ely Portillo covers local and state government for the Charlotte Observer, where he has previously written about growth, crime, the airport and a five-legged puppy. He grew up in Maryland and attended Harvard University.