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Property Taxes 101

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Property taxes are one of the primary sources of funding for local government units, including counties, cities and towns, townships, libraries and other special districts such as fire districts and solid waste districts. Property taxes are assessed and collected by local government officials. In Indiana, they are an ad valorem tax, meaning that they are allocated to each taxpayer proportionately, according to each taxpayer's property value.

The property tax process is also known as the property tax assessment and billing cycle. The cycle begins when the county assessor calculates a tax value for each parcel. Like other states, properties in Indiana are valued using mass appraisal techniques. Mass appraisal looks at each property in conjunction with other properties in its area. In this step, assessors take into consideration the age, grade, and condition of each parcel. The next phase of the process is known as annual adjustment, or "trending". Each year real property sales data is used to determine whether the value of properties in your area should change to match the market value determined by the sales of recent properties. Next, the assessor communicates the data on each property's value to the county auditor. The auditor applies deductions, exemptions, and other valuation adjustments to each parcel, as applicable. For example, homestead or mortgage deductions, certain charitable exemptions, and other deductions largely claimed by owner status. The auditor's office then sends these values, known as the certified net assessed values, to the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF). After thorough review, the DLGF converts these values to property tax rates. This calculation is performed by dividing each local unit's approved budget amounts by the assessed value for each unit. Finally, the DLGF forwards the tax rates back to each county, where the auditor and treasurer work together to calculate, generate and mail tax bills to each taxpayer.

You will receive notice of your property's value in one of two ways: the county assessor may send you a notice of assessment, known as a Form 11 or the assessed value of your property can be found with your tax bill. This document is known as the TS-1 tax comparison statement. Typically, in Porter County the county assessor elects to send a Form 11.

If you receive your Form 11 and feel your assessment does not reflect the market value-in-use of your property, you may appeal your assessment. To file an appeal, you must either contact your local assessor in writing within 45 days of the mailing of the Form 11 notice or tax bill, whichever was sent earlier. The state provides a standard form called the Form 130 for this purpose. Otherwise, a simple letter stating your intent to appeal is sufficient. In Porter County, you can even visit the assessor's website and file an appeal online. Indiana law does not require taxpayers to submit an appraisal in order to appeal an assessment. However, if you hope to be successful in lowering your property's value, you will need to provide some type of market evidence to prove that the property has been valued too high. Your opinion or a comparison with your neighbor's tax bill is not sufficient evidence.

If you have questions regarding Property Taxes, or other similar issues, please contact your HWE relationship attorney or visit us at http://www.hwelaw.com.

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