How Will COVID-19 Impact Your Property Taxes?
America has changed drastically over the past month due to the spread of COVID-19. Unemployment rates are up, many businesses are closed, and most kids are doing e-learning at home. In response to these changes state and national agencies have issued stimulus checks and relief funds in an attempt to soften the economic blow on individuals and our nation as a whole.
However, there’s been little discussion about what will happen to property taxes when the country reopens. While some sources speculate that property taxes may, in fact, prove to be the silver lining in all of this and drop when the nation reopens, others worry homeowners won’t see the decrease reflected in their assessments for 3 – 4 years.
Your property taxes are largely based on your home’s value, although local government and state officials also have a say in what determines your final property tax rate. So, let’s take a look at how COVID-19 might impact your property tax bill based on those factors.
The value of your home is determined by an assessor that’s hired by your local government. When the assessment goes up, so do your property taxes – and vice versa. That’s why the first thing many property owners do after a larger property tax bill is appeal their assessment if they feel it was unfairly inflated.
COVID-19 has disrupted the U.S. housing market, created higher unemployment rates and an uncertain outlook for many businesses – all of which are likely to create a temporary recession. Historically, home values drop during recessions which should result in lower property taxes.
However, whether or not your home’s value is reassessed is up to your local government. So it’s important homeowners keep up-to-date on their home’s value so they can appeal their home assessment if needed. Financial website fool.com gives a great example:
“What happens if your home values decline as a result of COVID-19 so that your home is only worth $275,000 a year from now? Suddenly, you’re looking at a tax bill of $5,500, provided your home is reassessed. And if your home is not reassessed automatically by your town but home prices in your area clearly decline, you can appeal your property tax bill and potentially lower that burden yourself.”
Property tax assessments in some areas might not take 2020 home value declines into consideration. Kendall County (IL) Assessor, Andy Nicoletti, told the Northwest Herald, “Property tax assessments as of the beginning of this year are based on a three-year sales average, meaning current assessments are being made using 2017, 2018 and 2019 data.”
If you feel that your new tax bill isn’t reflective of the drop your home value incurred due the financial impact COVID-19 had on the economy, Realtor.com explains how to begin the process of appealing. “Your property tax assessment should have an explanation of how to make an appeal on the form you received in the mail.” The article goes on to say, “You can also search for your county or state’s assessment appeals board or department of taxation and finance online. Start by searching for your county plus ‘assessment appeals’.”
To recap, your property taxes are based on a combination of your home’s assessed value and the needs of your local government – with the state laying down the guidelines your local government must abide by. For example, the state of California passed Proposition 13 in 1978 capping property taxes at 1%. Prior to that, the average property tax in the state was 2.67%
Many states and localities have put property tax relief in place. Thomson Reuters has an in-depth guide called, “Tax Relief Offered by States and Localities in Response to COVID-19” that can help homeowners to find out if there is property tax relief available to them.
For example, the guide shares that “The State of Indiana ordered all property taxes to remain due on May 11, 2020, however, counties must waive penalties on payments after May 11, 2020 for a period of 60 days.”
The federal government is bringing relief to homeowners, but not in the form of property taxes. Instead the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law on Friday, March 27, 2020 by President Trump, offers a different kind of relief.
The CARES Act helps homeowners who are unable to pay their mortgage due to COVID-19 related financial troubles, foreclosure moratoriums or mortgage forbearances.
A Foreclosure Moratorium suspends or stops your lender from foreclosing (taking ownership back) on your property. A foreclosure typically occurs when you are unable to make the required payments on your mortgage. Foreclosure specifics vary by state.
A Mortgage Forbearance allows you to pause, and sometimes reduce, your mortgage payments for a limited time. A mortgage forbearance does not eliminate your need to repay the missed or reduced payments.
As homeowners, it is prudent to understand what might happen to property taxes in your area and nationally when the country returns to business as usual. And while lower property taxes benefit homeowners in the short term, we should also remember the money collected from property taxes serves as the base of many community initiatives, meaning lower property taxes might be better for the individual but not necessarily for the community.