How To Lower Your Property Taxes: An Inside Look At How Property Assessors Screw Homeowners

Spring Blooming Cherry BlossomsYour property assessors’ #1 goal is to collect as much property tax from you as possible. Your goal as a homeowner is to make your home look like the dumpiest of dumps to pay the least amount of property tax possible. An asteroid could wipe out your entire city, but if the assessors office survives, they will come for you to collect!

Ever since the downturn, I’ve religiously filed a property tax appeal to get my assessed value lowered. In the midst of the financial crisis I was shocked that the assessors office appraised my primary residence for $100,000 more. If they got away with it, I would have paid roughly $1,200 more in property taxes that year. I ultimately won my appeal three months later and kept my assessed value the same as before.

For the next three years I got more aggressive and managed to lower my assessed value $100,000 below my purchase price. When the world is falling apart, it’s an easy sell to say your property’s value is also going down the tubes. In fact, my goal is to get the city to assess my property as close to $0 as possible.

Now that real estate is roaring back, I’m having a much harder time convincing the city I live in a rundown shack. This post will highlight how I almost got screwed over by the San Francisco property assessor again, and how I fought back and came to a compromise. Just like how every homeowner should be taking action to refinance their mortgage, every homeowner should take action by filing property tax appeals!

A CONVERSATION WITH AN ANGRY PROPERTY ASSESSOR EMPLOYEE

What Happens If I Don’t Pay My Taxes? Penalties And Solutions

My poker winnings after starting off with $100.If you are like me and millions of other screwed Americans, you owe taxes by April 15. I used to think that it was always better to owe taxes each year, but that was when the 10-year yield and CDs were providing a healthy 4% annual return. Nowadays, you’re lucky to get a 2% return on either instrument. We won’t even talk about the average money market savings rates at 0.1-0.2%. As a result of such low risk-free opportunity costs, I’ve been an advocate of folks getting a small tax refund since 2009 when the world was ending.

After doing my own taxes for the 10th time this year and always getting a small refund, I will finally be sending in a check for a vomit inducing five figure amount on top of an already six figure amount in taxes paid for 2012. So what happened that caused me to make such an erroneous calculation since I should be an expert at doing my own taxes by now? I didn’t make a mistake. Instead, the government and the voters of California got me.

PROPOSITION 30 PASSES: IF ONLY EVERYBODY COULD PITCH IN

The Main Reasons To Do And Not To Do Your Own Taxes

Happy giraffes grazing in the fieldIgnorance is bliss.

When you don’t know your boss is getting a huge bonus for saving the firm money by screwing your bonus, you’re happy. When you don’t know the reason why you didn’t get into the fellowship program is because the managing director is a woman who hates men with different political ideals, you’re happy. When you have no clue your boyfriend is hooking up with your best friend, you’re happy to carry on!

I’m generally a very happy go lucky type of guy. My facial expression seems to have “smile” as a a default setting. But there is one time a year where I get angry and randomly shout obscenities while no one is looking. The one time of year is during tax season.

As a proud financial masochist, I decided to redo my taxes a second time online just to make sure I didn’t make any errors. I’ve got a five figure tax bill for the first time in my life thanks to AMT, some one off incomes, and retroactive tax law changes in the state of California which I may write about more in the future.

Lo and behold I found a five figure error where I inadvertently inputted my property tax bill instead of my mortgage interest for one of my rental properties. My error makes me wonder what else I’ve done wrong. Despite my mistake, I’m a big proponent of everyone doing their own taxes. This post will highlight four reasons why, as well as five reasons why you’re silly.

THE MAIN REASONS TO DO YOUR OWN TAXES

A Savings Guide Based On The Taxes You Pay: Introducing The Total Income Tax to Total Savings Ratio (TITTS)

Big Pumelos Small TangerineThe joy of doing your own taxes is that you know where every single dollar of income goes. When our tax bill is not being optimized, we call this “leakage.” I finished up my taxes with H&R Block and realized I paid more in taxes than the total amount I spent to enjoy life. Holy Friedman Batman! Something is seriously wrong when the government is allowed to spend more of your money than you can spend on yourself. Or maybe I’m just not spending enough at all?

I’ve never thought about this ridiculous fact until I started comparing notes with a fellow tax hating friend. Everything can be explained by simple math. Given I saved around 70% of my net income after taxes last year, I have 30% in net disposable income to spend. If I pay more than a 30% effective tax rate (Federal+State+Medicaire+3.8% Medicare Investment Tax+Social Security etc), it ends up that I’ve paid more to the government than I’ve spent on myself!

This post will focus on your TITTS: Total Income Taxes paid (effective tax rate) divided by your Total Savings after paying taxes. If you can save as much as your effective tax rate, then you are on the right track because it means you are at least keeping as much of your money as the government is taking. Your TITTS ratio will determine whether you are winning or getting bent over by the government. But first, a little philosophy about taxes.

MATH, TAXES, AND THE WAY OF THE WORLD

How To Pay Little To No Taxes For The Rest Of Your Life

Save on taxes and go see Istanbul, TurkeyFor the past 10 years, I’ve been a buffoon. Ever since I was 25, I paid more than $100,000 a year in taxes. Even though I didn’t work for most of last year, I still paid over six figures in taxes. You don’t get a thank you card if you pay over $1 million dollars in taxes in case you’re wondering. Instead, you get the government hooked on your juice with fishing letters from the IRS asking for more!

I didn’t mind paying my fair share of taxes when I was in my 20s because I was excited to progress in my career. I felt lucky to just have a job that allowed me to save like crazy and help others financially through charitable donations. As I grew older, my views on income taxes changed.

Since the turn of the century, we’ve witnessed a devastating war in Iraqistan that by some estimates have taken over 1 million lives. We’ve observed Congress do nothing to pass a balanced budget since 2008 while giving themselves pay raises every single year. During the 2009-2010 financial crisis, the government doled out massive bailouts to institutions such as AIG while allowing executives to pay themselves millions of dollars. AIG even had the audacity to contemplate suing the federal government this year for wrongful terms! What the hell.

I felt sick to my stomach supporting such atrocities by a government who also discriminates against certain citizens while displaying no fiscal discipline. Why can’t we all be treated equally? I don’t know. When it takes 18 months for the city to fix a noisy and dangerous manhole cover, perhaps paying tens of thousands of dollars in state taxes is not worth it anymore. How about $5 bucks instead?

John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Unfortunately, those words were spoken on January 20, 1961. Most of us weren’t alive then since the median age in America is only 35. I’m afraid our society has permanently adopted a one-way take, take, take mentality.

I think I’ve paid my dues. Unless you’ve paid as much in taxes, please don’t criticize me for writing an article on how to help you legally pay less taxes. To build wealth, we must minimize our expenses. Taxes are one of the largest expenses we’ll ever incur.

THE BEST WAY TO PAY LITTLE TO NO TAXES