Walter Wolff: Lower Your Property Taxes with High Tech Tools

Property taxes represent the largest operating cost for most real estate portfolio owners. By combining powerful technology with a solid data management plan, that pesky annual tax bill can likely be cut, adding dollar-for-dollar to the bottom line.  Successful property tax appeals depend on facts. Not only are facts about the

Property taxes represent the largest operating cost for most real estate portfolio owners. By combining powerful technology with a solid data management plan, that pesky annual tax bill can likely be cut, adding dollar-for-dollar to the bottom line.

 Successful property tax appeals depend on facts. Not only are facts about the property important, but data pertaining to competing properties, equality of appraisal, intangible components, market trends and macroeconomic forces play a vital role in obtaining meaningful tax savings.

Gathering information about your own property is easy. Rent rolls, income statements and deferred maintenance lists are readily available. Unfortunately, this is where most property tax appeal reviews and preparation end.

It’s often the thorough analysis of the myriad of outside data sources available that provides the ammunition needed to maximize tax savings at assessment hearings.

These data are not always easy to access, sort, compare, format and make ready for a convincing presentation. To perform an adequate job, the property owner’s tax specialist would need to allocate many days of analysis time for each property.

Now jump into the shoes of your tax consultant, who may be handling thousands of appeals for hundreds of clients in a very tight appeal window. Chances are many stones are left unturned.

Enter technology. Appropriate software and data management processes can yield consistent appeals results on a large scale. These tools leverage a variety of state and national data sources, both public and proprietary, to the taxpayer’s advantage.

Good software seamlessly assimilates a property’s data, tax roll comparables, recent sales, income models and cost formulas. Equally as important, these efficient systems allow full analysis of each property and printing of final reports in less than 20 minutes.

The next time you meet with your tax consultant, ask for a tutorial on how they analyze your valuations and prepare for hearings. If you don’t see a judicious use of technology incorporating third-party data and work-up automation, you may be leaving something big on the table.

Walter Wolff is chief technology officer at the Austin, Texas, law firm Popp, Gray & Hutcheson. The firm devotes its practice to the representation of taxpayers in property tax disputes and is the Texas member of the American Property Tax Counsel (APTC), the national affiliation of property tax attorneys. Mr. Wolff can be reached at walter.wolff@property-tax.com.