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How to lower your Utah property taxes — maybe

Posted at 9:24 PM, Aug 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-25 13:27:16-04

RIVERDALE, Utah — Paige Berhow thought it couldn’t be right.

When she received her property tax notice, it showed she was supposed to pay about $800 more in 2023 than she did this year.

“The timing was just yucky,” said the retired police officer.

Berhow fell victim to a phenomenon afflicting many Utah property owners. Real estate values and tax rates have both increased. It can equate to hundreds or even thousands more in property taxes.

Berhow lives in a ranch-style house here in Riverdale. It’s 2,000 square feet with four bedrooms and 2 ½ bathrooms.

“I was pretty confident that [Weber County’s] valuation was a little bit high,” Berhow said.

So, Berhow did something she’s never done before. She filed an appeal of her property valuation. Her evidence was a comparison of similar homes in the area.

“My estimate would be that 30% to 40% of [homes] are overvalued,” said Annette Judd, a Realtor in Farmington who helped Berhow and other homeowners in Davis and Weber counties.

Information is what makes for a successful appeal, said Weber County Clerk/Auditor Ricky Hatch.

“Weber County has about 99,000 parcels,” he said. “And there's no way you can perfectly assess those every year.”

Hatch suggests property owners:

  • Review the valuation. Ensure figures such as lot size, square footage and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms are all correct.
  • If that’s all correct, do your own research on what your property is worth. If you’ve purchased or refinanced in the last year or two and had an appraisal, that can be your evidence in an appeal.
  • Otherwise, you can pay for a new appraisal or ask a Realtor to do a comparison. Hatch says most real estate agents will do the research for free in the hopes you give them business one day.
  • If you own commercial property, you might be able to compare income earned by similar properties.

Once you have your data, look up the county’s appeal process and follow it. But be careful.

Counties can undervalue properties, too, especially if you’ve recently remodeled or made improvements like additions that haven’t been reported to the county.

“We ask, ‘Could you sell it for that amount?’,” Hatch said. “And many [property owners] are quiet at that point, because they know the on the market, they really could sell it for that.”

Across Utah, the deadline for appealing next year’s property taxes is Sept. 15.

Last year in Davis County, 44% of appeals were successful, according to that county’s data.

In Utah County, 56% of appeals filed from 2018 through 2021 were successful.

Hatch says 70% to 80% of Weber County appeals were successful.

If your property is valued accurately, there might be other ways to lower your taxes.

You can apply for an abatement if you are:

  • Active-duty military
  • A disabled veteran
  • A blind homeowner
  • A low-income senior
  • A widow or widower

As for Berhow’s appeal, it was denied. She has the option of appealing that denial and even taking her case to a state board.

Instead, Berhow said she plans to pay more attention to local government in 2023 and maybe appeal her 2024 assessment.

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