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It may be worth your time to see if you can lower your tax bill

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POSTED December 13, 2012 11:59 p.m.

There are three ways you can possibly lower your property tax bill, two of which can be accomplished without investing even an hour of your time.

The first - and the easiest - is the $7,000 homeowner’s exemption. It is for homes that are owner-occupied as of Jan. 1 of each year.

On a lark, while searching for information on the assessed value of a certain piece of property in Manteca on the San Joaquin County assessor’s Office website, I pulled up my home’s basic tax assessment information. I was a bit surprised to find out that I was not getting the exemption. I had assumed - incorrectly - that it was taken care of with the paperwork that went along with my mortgage almost five years ago. I never really checked the copy of my tax bill for it, looking instead at the bottom line and where the taxes taken from me are going.

The exemption translates into a $70 savings on your property tax bill. A claim form must be filed with the county assessor by Feb. 15. Once it is filed you do not need to renew it.

Another exemption available is for homes owned by veterans or the parents or unmarried spouse of a deceased veteran. The maximum exemption allowed is $5,000 ($50 tax savings) for an unmarried veteran or parent of a deceased veteran or $100,000 ($100 tax savings) for a married veteran, parents of a deceased veteran, or unmarried spouse of a deceased veteran.

It can be claimed in addition to the homeowner’s exemption. But there’s a caveat. It must be for a different property. The claim form must be completed and filed annually by Feb. 15.

A third way to possibly reduce you property tax bill is also the most time consuming and not a sure thing.

You can appeal a property tax assessment for the following year’s tax rolls by Dec. 15 of the previous year. In a nutshell, you need to provide documentation - closed sales transactions - that show similar properties in a relatively close radius to your home actually sold for, or have a market value that is less than, the rate at which your property is assessed.

The assessor is dead on when determining a property’s value most of the time. But with hundreds of thousands of properties to review each year instances will pop up where specific parcels may have been over-assessed in terms of value. If you secure a $5,000 drop in assessment, that translates into a $50 a year savings.

You can Google the San Joaquin County Assessor’s Office or call 468-2630 for more information.

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