You can certainly file your tax grievance by yourself. You only need to be able to research your property’s market value, fill out your Grievance petition, and write a letter in support that explains your position. That said, we recommend that you retain an attorney to represent you in the matter. It’s not absolutely necessary, but in our experience attorneys have a better track record of successfully grieving taxes than homeowners who do it themselves. Accordingly, here are five reasons we think that you should retain an attorney to file your tax grievance.
1. It doesn’t cost you anything unless you are successful.
Most attorneys will represent you in a tax grievance complaint in return for a fee amounting to 40-50% of the first year’s tax savings. That’s a pretty good deal for you. You don’t have to pay anything if you’re not successful, and your attorney has every incentive to maximize the tax savings you can get. Even if you’re successful, you’ll get the benefit of the reduced assessment for many years, and only have to pay the attorney a portion of the first year’s worth of savings. Some attorneys might charge a lower percentage of the savings paid out over more years (i.e., 25% of each year’s savings for two years), which is also a good deal. But we do not advise hiring any attorney that demands an upfront fee, or collects a fee higher than approximately 50% of one year’s worth of tax savings.
2. Attorneys can do all the work on establishing market value.
The hardest part about filing the grievance is establishing market value. You can get help from your Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty agent in finding comparable properties, but attorneys have access not only to that information but to public records that might contain property sales that were not recorded through the local multiple listing systems. Moreover, an attorney can give you a good evaluation of whether it’s worthwhile even to pursue your tax grievance, since experienced attorneys have a strong sense of the local board’s tendencies when evaluating different types of petitions.
3. Attorneys are familiar with the Grievance Day hearing.
If you’re not the kind of person who is comfortable speaking in an open hearing, then you might want to have an attorney represent you. The Grievance Day hearing is not a terribly intimidating atmosphere, but if you’ve never done anything like that you might be more comfortable having someone speak up for you. The hearing process can be confusing for a lay person, and an experienced attorney is almost certainly going to be more adept at explaining your case.
4. Grieving your taxes can take a lot of time.
The reason attorneys charge a fee for handling tax grievances is that the process can take a lot of time. You have to do the research, fill out the forms, write the supporting letter, and then prepare for and attend the hearing. All of that is manageable, but it does take time and effort. If you do not think that you could get all the work done in time for the grievance deadlines, you should hire an attorney who will make sure it gets done.
5. The attorney can handle your appeal if you don’t win the grievance.
Finally, hiring an attorney to handle the grievance can help if you are not successful, since the attorney will be able to handle the appeals hearings that you will likely want to pursue. You definitely will want an attorney to handle the appeal, so retaining an attorney to represent you in the initial administrative hearing before the board ensures that your attorney will be familiar with the facts. If you’re going to have to pay an attorney anyway if your petition is not successful, you might as well have an attorney handle the case all the way through.