The mention of property taxes often stirs controversy among our citizens. The fact is most of us in some way use the services that tax money pays for from educating our children to keeping infrastructure maintained. If you do not agree with how the money is spent get more involved in the process. This post is for those who think they are being unfairly taxed for the property they own in Maine not for a philosophical discussion about the pros and cons of our current tax system.
The Maine constitution requires that taxes on property be based on just value and fairness. Just value is usually considered fair market value. Fairness is determined by how all property owners are treated as a group. To challenge a perceived excessive property tax the land owner in Maine has options for relief.
A potential option for abatement is to challenge how the tax assessor determined the property's value. Get a copy of your tax card from the town and review the methodology of the assessor. Compare the valuation of your property to a recent appraisal and/or review recent sale data of similar properties. If you see a big discrepancy in current market value compared to the assessed value you may have grounds for abatement.
Another option for abatement is to prove that your property is being assessed unfairly. Similar to researching just value, the taxpayer must do research before requesting the abatement. What you need to look for are a number of similar properties with large difference in valuation. The tax assessor is allowed some variations as it is not practical to fully analyze every property in the town every year. To have success you need to show that your valuation is more than the average of similar properties. If just one or two properties are found with slightly higher or lower valuation you probably do not have a case for abatement.
If after your review of all this data you are convinced that your property is being taxed unjustly or unfairly you should meet with the tax assessor to discuss the difference. If you can convince them of the error in just valuation or fairness, they may adjust the valuation to reflect your findings. This should be done before the taxes are committed for the tax year as assessors will most likely refuse to adjust any valuations after that date. If they do refuse your request and you are convinced you are right a more formal request will be necessary.
Under Title 36 MRSA, Sections 583, 706, 841-849 and 1118 a Maine property owner who thinks their taxes are higher than they should be can file a formal application for abatement of property taxes with the local assessors within 185 days after the tax was committed to the tax collector. You can find more details on the process online at http://owlshead.maine.gov/Maine_Revenue_Services_Property_Tax_Bulletin.pdf