Keep Calm and Read on: Information to Look for in Your Commercial Property Tax Bill

The commercial property tax bill has an unusual way of eliciting all sorts of emotions at once. There’s anxiety about the unknown as you evaluate that sealed envelope. There’s the weight of knowing a payment is coming.

Oftentimes there’s confusion, too.

At Lane Property Tax Advocates, we believe a bit of insight can make a world of difference when it comes to the complicated world of commercial property taxes. Here, we lay out the important information you should be looking for when your commercial property tax bill arrives, what exactly that information is telling you — and steps you can take to make tax season easier on the whole.

Understanding the Different Parts of Your Commercial Property Tax Bill
Tax assessors and collectors have an uncanny knack for fitting a large amount of data into a seemingly small physical space. And if you aren’t prepared for it, it can take a moment for those numbers to make sense. Here are a few key areas you should zero in on.

Understanding Where Your Commercial Property Tax Bill Fits into the Overall Process
The commercial property tax bill is something of an end cap for the overarching tax and protest process. By the time your bill arrives, you will have already received your initial notice, determined whether or not a protest was necessary and undergone the hearings required to negotiate your owed amount down to something reasonable.

And, while your bill is important, it isn’t the only document that provides crucial information throughout the process.

The notice you received at the start of the process includes pre-hearing amounts for the data mentioned above, and also indicates how your assessed value for the current year compares to that of the year before. It lists that information out by valuation amount, and percentage increase or decrease, too.

Your notice contains quality information in a fairly easy-to-digest format, so long as you do some reading. And it can be an easy way to determine whether you should consider pursuing a commercial property tax protest. (In most instances, you should!) We recommend holding onto all such correspondence, as it can help with current and future commercial property tax protests.

Know What to Do Long Before Your Commercial Property Tax Bill Arrives
As we mentioned above, your tax bill is a culmination of all the work that went into the protest process. In order to get your bill’s amount lowered to something more in line with what you should be paying, it helps to start commercial property tax season strong. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Give your notice a thorough once-over once it arrives in the mail. Don’t just inspect the tax rates and totals indicated, but look at other basic information included, too. Do they have the right person? Is your address correct? Clerical errors aren’t overly common with commercial property tax matters, but accidents can happen. Catching errors early in the process can make things a lot easier down the line.
  2. Get plans in place to begin a commercial property tax protest. Think we’re putting the cart ahead of the horse by assuming you should protest? We aren’t! The truth is, imperfect appraisal systems on the CAD’s part mean that, more often than not, assessed values are overinflated. It’s not an act of malice — just the byproduct of a system that compares properties without taking into account issues such as damage or incomplete improvements. We recommend contacting a firm you trust as soon as possible, since their calendars fill quickly once notices begin going out.
  3. Begin gathering documents to help your protest along. The commercial property tax protest is no he-said, she-said deal. It’s an organized process that can be much like going to court, depending on how far things go before an agreement is reached. In order to help you build the best possible case, your property tax firm will need hard data and documentation. From photographs of your property, to receipts for recent repairs, cost estimates for future work and more, every bit of information can help.
  4. Keep lines of communication open. Few things are as frustrating for you, the commercial property owner, than not knowing where things stand with your protest. (And few things are as frustrating for your property tax firm as needing information but getting zero response.) Once you’ve selected your firm and gotten the process moving, keep an eye out for phone calls or emails. A quick response time on your end can make a tremendous difference — and keep minds at ease, as well. On that same note, if you have questions, don’t hesitate to call! Your tax pros are there to help.
  5. Don’t stress. We understand this one is easier said than done (especially when you’re eyeballing amounts that simply can’t be correct) but try to stay calm if you can. Remember, if you’ve hired on a firm like Lane, you’re handing the hard work over to them. They’ll be responsible for getting information filed, keeping deadlines in mind and getting your assessed value lowered. So long as you’ve taken care of steps 1 – 4, you should be in excellent shape.

We hope the above information makes decoding your commercial property tax bill a bit easier and helps you take on tax season with a bit more confidence. If you have questions about anything you’ve just read, or if you’re interested in learning how Lane can help you along the way, please feel free to contact Lane. Our team would love to hear from you!