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Zillow list property taxes near the bottom of any listing. There are two main columns, Property Taxes and Tax Assessment. On an example $350k home for 2014, Zillow list the two values as:

$1900 and $24000

I understand what property taxes are. These are paid each year. But what is the Tax Assessment ($24000) part?

I'll pay the $1900 part annually. But do I pay anything on the $24000 part or is it only displayed for calculations?

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It's the purely nominal property value that the property taxes are based on. In a lot of jurisdictions, it's the value as at a specific date that's a long time ago, and hasn't been updated since, leading to the big discrepancy between the assessed value of $24,000 and the real value of around $350,000.

  • Why would they use $24000 to value the home and base taxes off of? It also looks as though the tax rate is ~7.9%? – 4thSpace Oct 10 '14 at 15:55
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    Because if you valued every house in 1970, updating the values of every house again in 1971 is difficult and expensive. Then you have to do it again in 1972, 1973, and so on. So you don't do it; you keep using the 1970 valuations, and value newly built houses on the basis of what they would have been worth in 1970. (Or whatever your base year is.) It doesn't really matter, after all; you can charge 8% of a small value instead of 0.8% of a big value, and it comes out the same. – Mike Scott Oct 10 '14 at 16:00
  • Ok - think I understand. So I only pay the property tax part annually and not the other large number? By the way, the house was built in 2005 but they may still value in 1970? – 4thSpace Oct 10 '14 at 16:28
  • Yes, but as mhoran_psprep said, you should watch out for big increases in the assessment if the property changes hands. You should get your lawyer to advise you. – Mike Scott Oct 10 '14 at 16:48
  • To add, it's not an appraisal or even an estimate of value. It's simply the number the local taxing authority uses to set taxes. It may or may not be close to the actual market value but rarely is so. – ssaltman Oct 10 '14 at 18:50
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Zillow gets their information from public databases.

You need to go to the city/town/county/state website and look for the property tax records.

Normally there are two values:

  • the assessed value of the structure and property (some jurisdictions split this out)
  • and the tax rate. It may be expressed at $x.xx per $100.

In some jurisdictions there are several twists:

  • some only update the assessment every x years. So you need to see when was the last/next assessment.
  • some limit the maximum percentage change between assessments. They will specify what the assessment would be if this limiting factor wasn't included.
  • some fix the assessed value at some date in the past or when the home is first constructed, or when it was last sold. This should be noted. These jurisdictions adjust the percentage to reflect the impact of inflation.

If they are using one of these twists they will note that there can be a large change in assessed value when the property is sold.

The local government website will also specify if there are other "taxes" that are added to your tax bill. This can include: storm water management, gypsy moth...

In some cases there are piggy back taxes: the town can be part of a county and both tax you.

based on the numbers in your question the property is assessed at 24K with a ~$7.92 per $100 rate.

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    additional note - some areas show the tax as a mil rate, the dollars per thousand of value. So a town near me has a mil rate of $19.83, which you'd call 'just under 2%'. – JoeTaxpayer Oct 10 '14 at 16:42

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