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What Happens if I Can’t Pay Property Taxes?

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In many cases, property taxes are one of the largest tax bills we receive each year. We pay property taxes to fund our local governments and provide support to necessary programs in our areas such as schools, fire departments, police departments and even for items like maintaining roads. But, what if your tax bill is just too high and you find you can’t afford to pay property taxes this year?

First of all, you should look at the tax assessor’s valuation of your home. The value of your home as determined by the tax assessor is what determines how you will be taxed, and these property valuations are somewhat subjective. If you feel that your property has been over-valued, you can appeal the valuation. If you win your appeal, you’ll pay property taxes on this new, lower valuation, which will reduce your tax bill.

Secondly, see if you qualify for an exemption you’re not taking. In many areas, you can take what’s known as a “homestead exemption” on your primary residence. This exemption lowers your tax rate, but if you own more than one home, you can only take a homestead exemption on one piece of property and it should always be taken on your primary residence. You can file for a homestead exemption, where they are allowed, at your local tax office. Some areas also offer a hardship exemption, but these must often be granted on a year by year basis.

Next, you should ask for a payment plan on your property taxes. Most local tax offices will grant you a payment plan that helps you pay property taxes over time. In some areas, you can simply make partial payments on your property taxes until they’re paid in full without ever having to formally request a payment plan. However, in most cases, you must request a payment plan before your property enters tax foreclosure. Once you have entered the tax foreclosure process, it’s usually impossible to set up a payment plan.

If you don’t pay property taxes when they’re due, you’ll begin to accrue interest and penalties on your unpaid balance, even if you’ve set up a payment plan. If your taxes remain unpaid for an extended period of time, your property may go into tax foreclosure. Foreclosures are handled differently in each state, but in all states there is a point at which your property can be seized and sold by the local government to pay the delinquent taxes. In most cases, local governments will work with taxpayers as much as possible to ensure that their property is not seized and sold, but the taxpayer must do their part, too.




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