A property tax consultant assists property owners in lowering their property taxes and contesting assessments that they believe are excessive. While property taxes are commonly charged on all types of property in the United States, most property tax consultants focus on real estate taxes. To work as a property tax consultant, you’ll need a solid foundation in real estate, real estate appraisal, property tax assessment, or a combination of these fields.
Property tax consultants will examine the assessed value of a subject property and use various sources to confirm or refute it. They’ll compare assessments to those of similar properties in the neighborhood and similar neighborhoods in the taxing jurisdiction to see if tax valuations are accurate. The goal of this investigation is to build a strong enough case to challenge the assessment and force a real estate tax reduction. The investigation will be brief, lasting no more than a week or two; the appeals process, while potentially lengthy, will not consume much of the consultant’s time. The consultant may appear before an appeals board with or on behalf of the client during this process.
Property tax consultants are educated in a variety of ways. Although no degree programs in the field are currently available, most colleges and universities, including community colleges, offer taxation, real estate, and property appraisal coursework that would provide a good academic foundation for a career as a property tax consultant. However, much of the training for becoming a property tax consultant comes from hands-on experience as a real estate agent, broker, CPA, or lawyer in the field of real estate appraisal, sales, and taxation.
Compensation can be inconsistent, as it is with any consulting job. Some property tax consultants charge the hour or the property, but the majority charge a percentage of the annual tax savings they can achieve for the client, which can be as high as 50%. This may appear to be a high price for a relatively short period of work, particularly for commercial properties that pay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes each year, but the property owner will save the same amount each year until the next assessment, which could be many years away.
A property tax consultant’s relationship with property owners is fleeting; unlike more routine tax matters like income taxes, property tax assessments aren’t made annually, and there isn’t the same kind of long-term relationship that one might develop with a trusted tax preparer or lawyer. As a result, the property tax consultant receives very little repeat business – the majority of his or her business is new, though a successful consultant will receive a significant amount of referral business. Furthermore, while someone with the necessary training and skills could theoretically work as a property tax consultant in any jurisdiction, it’s likely that the more familiar one is with a particular jurisdiction or region, the better the chances of success.
Only Texas requires a license to work as a property tax consultant; unless applicants have related, documented experience, they must complete 40 hours of classroom instruction. Because property tax appeals frequently involve the judicial process, most property tax consultants have relationships with lawyers who will represent their clients in court if the appeal is necessary. Some states also consider independent property tax consultants to be practicing law without a license; in those states, property tax consultants are usually supervised an attorney.