Property Tax Appeals and Exemptions

property tax appeals and exemptions

This time of year usually brings a renewed interest in property taxes. We’ve written about the property tax annual cycle before.  Today we’re going to address the question of tax appeals and exemptions.

Is it possible to reduce what I pay for property taxes? 


To download a printable version of this article, click here.

For many of us the answer is probably no.  There is an appeals process plus a number of programs where property owners may qualify for exemptions or deferrals.

Property Tax Appeals

Each county provides specific information on appealing your property tax valuation. This information will include instructions on how to appeal, when you may appeal, what evidence you will need to provide, tools for gathering information, and a description of the appeals process.

You may qualify

According to the King County Department of Assessments, there are more than 26,000 senior citizens and disabled persons that qualify for exemption yet they have not enrolled.

One of the more common reasons to appeal is a change in property value.  For this reason each county provides free databases (or online search tools) that you can use for locating sold properties that are comparable to yours. If you can find similar properties that sold for less than the assessed value of your home, it may be worth your time to appeal your valuation.

Comparable Sales – Comparable sales are properties of a similar lot size, quality, living area, age, and added details like view or waterfront. If you are planning on appealing your property tax valuation, you may be required to list comparable sales that support your request on your appeal petition.

Errors in your property description – From time to time the assessor may make errors in the description of a property. Any errors in how your property is described should be noted in your petition. You can also provide other documentation such as pictures, repair bids, or geology reports if there are structural or site problems that would reduce market value.

Property Search tools

It’s the law

State law requires the Assessor to value all taxable property at 100 percent of its true and fair market value in money, according to the highest and best use of the property.

King County Property Search
Pierce County Property Search
Snohomish County Property Search

Information on appeals
King County Property Tax Appeals
Pierce County Property Tax Appeals
Snohomish County Property Tax Appeals

Property Tax Exemption & Deferral Programs

Some taxpayers may qualify for tax exemptions or tax deferrals. Exemptions generally provide a reduction in the amount of taxes due, whereas deferrals provide temporary relief by applying the deferred taxes as a lien against the property.

Below are a few categories of exemptions & deferrals provided by the Washington State Department of Revenue. The county assessor administers these programs and is responsible for determining if applicants meet the qualifications. Questions about these programs should be directed to the county assessor’s office.

Property tax deferral program for senior citizens and disabled persons
Property tax deferral program for homeowners with limited income

Assistance in the form of a Grant
Property tax assistance program for widows or widowers of veterans

Property tax exemption for nonprofit organizations
Property tax exemption program for senior citizens and disabled persons

Finally, there is a large list of other possible deferrals & exemptions available through the county assessor that may be available for a qualifying property depending on it’s condition, historic significance, or how it is used.

Siri Property tax response

What would siri have to say about saving on property taxes?

Some examples are:

  • Homeowner Improvement
  • Flood and Storm Damaged Property
  • Current Use Open Space
  • Current Use Forest Land
  • Historic Property
  • Designated Forest Land
  • Character building benevolent, protective or rehabilitative social services
  • Veterans and relief organizations
  • Libraries
  • Orphanages
  • Day care centers
  • Nursing homes and hospitals
  • Schools and colleges
  • Art, scientific and historical collections
  • Fire companies
  • Humane societies
  • Musical and artistic associations
  • Public assembly halls
  • Certain public authorities
  • Sheltered workshops for the disabled

As a reference, here are some resources for King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties.

King County

Address Department of AssessmentsProperty Tax Advisor Office516 3rd Ave, Room 1236Seattle, WA 98104Toll Free: 1-800-325-6165 ext. 5-6330TTY: 206-205-6338

Fax: 206-296-0948

Exemption Questions (206) 205-6330
Website Appeals
Comparable Sales Comparable Sales

Pierce County

Address Assessor-TreasurerAnnex (Public Services Building)2401 South 35th Street Room 142Tacoma, WA 98409(253)
Exemption Questions (253) 798-6111
Website Appeals
Comparable Sales Comparable Sales

Snohomish County

Address Assessor’s OfficeFirst Floor, Administration Building East3000 Rockefeller Ave, M/S 510Everett, WA
Exemption Questions (425) 388-3540
Website Appeals
Comparable Sales Comparable Sales

The Property Tax Annual Cycle

There are few things in life that are as certain as taxes, especially when it comes to buying, selling, and owning real estate.  In this article, we’re going to take a look at property taxes, including when they are due, when they may be paid, how they’re calculated, and what tax relief programs are available.

The Property Tax Timeline

Property taxes have a timeline that is different than most other taxes or bills that we pay. Let’s take a look at the facts:

  • Taxes are due twice a year, but towards the middle each cycle
  • First half taxes are due at the end of April and cover January through June
  • Second half taxes are due at the end of October, and cover July through December
Click  the following link to download a printable version of the Property Tax Annual Cycle Infographic.

Property tax proration

Because taxes are due toward the middle of the period they cover, a real estate seller may receive a refund or pay prorated taxes depending on the closing date.  For example, a sale that closes in March will have both parties paying prorated taxes: the seller pays for January 1st to date of closing, and the buyer pays from the closing date to June 30th. A closing that happens in May, would give the seller a refund for prorated taxes from the closing date to the end of June, since the seller would have paid in April for the entire first half of the year.

Can property taxes be paid in advance?

When are taxes due?

1st half are due the last day of April, 2nd half are due the last day of October. King County mails out a statement in the middle of February (February 14th for this year – Happy Valentine’s Day!)

Taxes for the second half of the year can be paid in advance, but the first half can’t. Washington State law (RCW 84.56.010) doesn’t allow county treasurers to collect property taxes until February 15 of the year that they are due. So the first half is typically payable any time between Feb 15th and April 30th; and the second half is typically payable any time between Feb 15th and October 31st. It is not necessary to have a tax statement to mail in with your payment. If you decide to mail in your payment without a tax statement, you must write your tax account number on the check. Mailed payments must be postmarked on or before the due date otherwise they will be considered late.

How are property taxes calculated?

How taxes are calculated

The two factors used in the calculation of taxes are the assessed value of the property and the levy rate for that area. Levy rates are represented in dollars per thousand, so to calculate the tax amount multiply the assessed value by the levy rate and divide by 1,000.

The property tax for a given parcel are based on a fairly simple calculation: multiply the total assessed or taxable value of the parcel by the levy rate for that parcel’s neighborhood. In addition there can be fees added by the county to cover specific services like noxious weed control.

Last Year’s Assessed Value x This Year’s Levy Rate = Tax Amount Due

What determines the levy rate?

The levy rates are determined by a number of factors, including the results of voter-approved levies. Property taxes usually aren’t certified until the middle of February, even though the assessments were mailed out the previous year (which often causes confusion). In other words, the assessed valuation statement you get in the 2ndhalf of this year has no effect on the taxes you are paying this year. The valuation will be used in the calculation for next year’s taxes. You won’t know the actual tax you will need to pay for 2012 until the county certifies 2012 taxes in the middle of February, even though 2012 assessed values have been available for months.

Assessed value vs. taxable value

The assessed value is typically the same as the taxable value except in cases where the taxpayer has applied for and received an exemption. For example, senior and disabled property owners may qualify for tax reductions. In some cases home improvements may qualify for a 3-year exemption for taxes on the value of the improvement. For more information on possible exemptions or tax defererals, contact the Assessor-Treasurer for the county in which the property is located.

What tax relief programs are available?

Here are some examples of programs and special classifications available that provide tax relief:

  • Open Space Classification for Agricultural land, Timberland, and Natural preserves.
  • Designated Forest Land Classification for timberland parcels 20 acres or more.
  • Historical Restoration Exemption for historical significant property undergoing restoration.
  • Improvement Exemption – Single Family Dwellings a temporary exemption of valuation of additions to single-family dwellings.
  • Destroyed Property Claim adjustment to the valuation of destroyed property. (please note this program is handled by the Admin department, for further information please contact them at 425 388-3038).
  • Property tax exemptions for senior citizens and disabled persons
  • Full tax deferrals for senior citizens and disabled persons.
  • Exemptions for qualifying property owned by non-profit organizations.
  • Property tax deferral for those with limited income.

Property tax resources:

King County property tax resources

King County Assessor-Treasurer hotline: (206) 296-3850
Find your tax parcel account number: King County tax parcel search
See or print a tax statement: View or print King County tax statements here.
Make online payment: Pay King County Property Taxes Online
Make checks payable to: King County Treasurer
Mailing addresses for property taxes: King County Treasury 500 Fourth Avenue, Room 600 Seattle, WA 98104

Pierce County property tax resources:

Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer hotline: (253) 798-6111
Find your tax parcel account number: Pierce County tax parcel search
See or print a tax statement: View or print Pierce County tax statements online here.
Make online payment: Pay Pierce County Property Taxes Online
Make checks payable to: Pierce County
Mailing addresses for property taxes: Pierce County Budget & Finance P.O. Box 11621 Tacoma, WA 98411-6621

Snohomish County property tax resources:

Snohomish County Assessor-Treasurer hotline: (425) 388-3433
Find your tax parcel account number: Snohomish County Tax tax parcel search
See or print a tax statement: View or Print Snohomish County tax statements online here.
Make online payment: Pay Snohomish County Property Taxes Online.
Make checks payable to: Snohomish County Treasurer
Mailing addresses for property taxes: Snohomish County Treasurer 3000 Rockefeller Ave, M/S 501 Everett, WA 98201