Just Got Your Property Tax Statement? Don’t Panic!

white sign with red border and red text with the words don't panic in relation to property tax statement
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

[Editor’s note: This post about property tax statements and property taxes was originally published in May 2019; it has been reviewed and updated for accuracy, and a significant amount of new content has been added for comprehensiveness.]

Every year around this time, I get lots of questions from homeowners about property taxes. Here’s a roundup of the questions I get asked most often, along with the answers.

If you have a question that’s not answered here, please feel free to reach out to me at 303-204-6494 or jen@jmdenverhomes.com.

Why Did I Get a Property Tax Statement? Why Didn’t I Get One?

Since 2010, Colorado law has allowed counties to send property tax statements via email. Most (but not all) Colorado counties took that opportunity to stop mailing hard-copy versions to anyone whose property taxes are paid via their mortgage company. Instead, these counties send emails to let you know when tax statements are available for viewing and when due dates are approaching. So…

  • If you DID receive a hard-copy statement, it’s because either: 1) your property taxes are *not* paid via a mortgage company — for example, your home is paid off; or 2) you live in one of the counties that still mails hard-copy statements; or 3) your county sends emails but you have signed up with the county assessor to receive hard-copy statements. Each county assessor’s website will have a way for you to sign up for emailed statements if that’s your preference.
  • If you DIDN’T receive a hard-copy statement AND your property taxes are paid via your mortgage company, you probably received your statement via email. If you’re in this group and still cannot locate your property tax statement, contact your county assessor. NOTE: it’s important to keep your email updated with the county assessor; otherwise, you will not receive property tax-related communications.

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How is the Actual Value of My Property Determined for Property Taxes?

The Actual Value listed on your property tax statement is as of July 1, 2020. The Actual Value is an educated estimate of your property’s market value at that point in time in comparison to properties that sold between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2020 and are similar in location, design, size, age and amenities.

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What If I Think the Actual Value on My Property Tax Statement is Too Low?

Remember that the Actual Value figure is from July 1, 2020. That’s kind of “forever ago” when it comes to real estate. So you’re right that the number may be a little (or a lot) lower than what you might expect to get if you were to sell your home today. Here’s the bright side to a low Actual Value: since your Assessed Value gets calculated based off this number, the lower it is, the lower your overall taxes will be.

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What If I Think the Actual Value on My Property Tax Statement is Too High?

It makes good financial sense to take a critical look at the Actual Value shown on your property tax statement. Your Assessed Value gets calculated based off this number, so you want to be sure it’s not higher than it should be. If you think the Actual Value is too high, reach out to me. I can do a Competitive Market Analysis using figures from that same July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2020 time period. If it turns out the Actual Value really is overstated, you can appeal the valuation with the county assessor (see How Do I Appeal My Property Taxes? below). But, just as for folks who feel their Actual Value is too low, you might actually be glad that the valuation isn’t any *more* recent. If it were, your Actual Value – and subsequently your property taxes – might be even higher.

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FYI: Your Actual Value
Will Stay the Same
Until You Pay 2022’s Taxes in 2023

Colorado law requires all assessors to reappraise all real property including land and improvements every two years. In practical terms, this means the Actual Value shown on your property tax statement is the figure that will be used for BOTH the 2020 tax year (to be paid in 2021) AND the 2021 tax year (to be paid in 2022). That doesn’t necessarily mean your taxes will be the same next year; there may be changes in mill levies and new (or expiring) charges from taxing authorities that will affect your overall tax bill.

Your property will be reappraised and show a new Actual Value on the property tax statement you’ll receive in 2023 for payment of 2022 taxes. At that time, the value for your property will be determined based on comparable sales falling in the period of July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2022. Given Colorado’s soaring real estate appreciation throughout 2020 and so far in 2021, don’t be surprised to see a significantly higher Actual Value figure when you receive your statement in early 2023.

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How is My Assessed Value Determined for Property Taxes?

Your Assessed Value is the result of multiplying your Actual Value by the Residential Assessment Rate. The Residential Assessment Rate in Colorado is currently 7.15%.

GOOD TO KNOW: On November 3, 2020, Colorado voters passed Amendment B to the state constitution, which repealed the Gallagher Amendment of 1982. The Gallagher Amendment had imposed limits on residential and non-residential property tax assessment rates so that residential property taxes would account for 45% of the total share of state property taxes and non-residential property taxes would account for the remaining 55% of the total share of state property taxes. While passage of Amendment B removed the 45%/55% constitutional requirement, it did not set assessment rates. That was accomplished by passage in the state legislature of Senate Bill 20-223, which took effect alongside the constitutional amendment. Senate Bill 223 prohibits the legislature from changing assessment rates for property. In effect, it froze the current rates at 7.15% for residential property and 29% for non-residential property by state law. SB 223 allows the legislature to reduce the assessment rate in state statute; any increase in assessment rates would require a statewide vote of the people per the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). 

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How Do I Appeal My Property Taxes?

Each county in Colorado has procedures for appealing property taxes. Check your county assessor’s website for specifics. Typically, you can ask to speak with an assessor about your valuation or you can complete and submit the county’s appeal form. It is important that if you choose to appeal the Assessor’s value, you should provide pertinent information supporting your estimated value; that’s where my Competitive Market Analysis is useful. Here are links to the appeal forms for the five metro Denver area counties:

NOTE: There are timelines associated with these appeals; be sure you check the dates that apply in your county if you choose to make an appeal.

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Can I Appeal the Various Tax Rates Applied to My Property?

No. Your property tax statement has a section titled “Tax Authority/Other Charges.” This is where you can see every tax or charge that applies to your property – both who’s charging it and at what dollar amount or rate per $1,000 of Assessed Value. Common taxes in this section are those related to your property’s school district, county, city, library district, community-centered board for services for people with developmental disabilities, water and fire districts, metropolitan districts, and more. The mill levy rates and charges were approved by voters living in the relevant geographic boundaries of each taxing authority.

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How Can I Get a Property Tax Exemption?

Two property tax exemption programs are currently available in Colorado. One is for senior citizens and the other is for disabled veterans.

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Property Tax Exemption for Senior Citizens

Colorado has had a property tax exemption for seniors since January 1, 2001. You qualify if:

  • At least one owner of the property is at least 65 years old or older as of January 1; AND
  • The property in question is the primary residence; AND
  • The property in question has been the primary residence for at least 10 consecutive years prior to January 1 of the year he/she applies.

You must meet all three requirements to qualify. Qualifying seniors receive an exemption of 50% of the first $200,000 of Actual Value. The remaining Actual Value is then assessed at the standard Residential Assessment Rate of 7.15%.

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Property Tax Exemption for Disabled Veterans

Colorado has had a property tax exemption for disabled veterans since January 1, 2006. IMPORTANT: The qualifications for disabled veterans are more complex than the ones for senior citizens; check theinformation on the state website and review it with your tax professional. Qualifying veterans receive an exemption of 50% of the first $200,000 of Actual Value. The remaining Actual Value is then assessed at the standard Residential Assessment Rate of 7.15%.

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Can I Claim Both the Senior Citizen and Disabled Veteran Property Tax Exemptions?

No. You may not claim more than one exemption per tax year for a residential property, even if one or more of the owners qualifies for both the senior exemption and the disabled veteran exemption. Further, if an individual or married couple applies for either or both the senior and disabled veteran exemptions on more than one property, the exemptions will be denied on each property. This is because only one property can be the primary residence.

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Still have questions? Get in touch at 303-204-6494 or jen@jmdenverhomes.com; if I don’t know the answer to your question, I can refer you to an expert who will.

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