Businesses can easily get bogged down in property tax data. County addresses, deadlines, valuation methods, depreciation tables, tax ratios… there are too many data types to list. And while there are common pieces of information people look for, the options are limited when it comes to places to look. That’s because a good chunk of this data varies by jurisdiction. So instead of having central repositories for “property tax information,” a single county website may be your only option. And even finding that isn’t quite as easy as it seems (we’ll get to that later).
So when you do need property tax information, what is the best way to find it? Whether you’re looking for information about a specific property you own or more general information about property tax in your state or county, one of the resources listed below should help lead you to the answers.
How to Get Property Tax Information
Your Property Tax Documentation
The most authoritative source for property tax information will always be your own assessments and tax bills. The physical documents you receive from your assessor’s or collector’s office are correct 99.9% of the time. (I can’t go as far as 100% because I’ve had to correct misprinted data in the past!) But this method of information-gathering is reactive—you’re waiting to find out due dates and other information until you get a bill or notice in the mail. Sometimes it’s best to take a more proactive approach with one of the two resource categories listed below.
Want to reduce your information-gathering burden? Our software has a property tax database that includes the most current jurisdictional data—and helps you process your property taxes, too.
Your Assessor’s/Collector’s Website(s)
After your own tax documentation, your assessor’s or collector’s website is the second-best information source. It’s essentially a warehouse of property tax information in the context of one specific county, township, or whatever other term your tax district is referred to as. You will need to visit the assessor’s website for assessment information and the collector’s website for tax bill information. (They are different entities!) A phone call to the jurisdiction’s office works just as well, if you’d rather ask questions directly.
Searching for assessor websites
Even though we’re all familiar with the concept of searching the web, in the case of property tax, it isn’t always as easy as expected to find what you need.
The language for property tax terms varies widely across jurisdictions. Examples:
In Virginia, assessors are referred to as commissioners of revenue; in Texas they’re called appraisal districts.
In Texas, properties are referred to by account number; in Tennessee it’s a map number; and in Florida it’s a folio number.
So this simple search...
[property address] assessor
...may or may not get you to the assessor’s website. And even if it does, you may have difficulty looking up your property on that site unless you know the term to use to look for it. So it’s important to learn as much as you can about the nuances of your county’s property tax language before you search, to save time (and reduce frustration!).
Property Tax Information Aggregators
If you’re looking for general information, an aggregator might be able to help. Some companies make it their primary business to track down jurisdiction property tax data, verify it, then sell it to interested parties in various formats. If you have multiple properties, it could save you from having to piece it all together. (Note that you’ll still probably have plenty of gaps to fill in once you get your hands on this information.)
Examples of property tax information aggregators include:
- NETROnline (website)—Choosing a state on the homepage map takes you to a list of towns, and then a list of county offices that includes a web link and phone information for the tax assessor’s office.
- U.S. Master Property Tax Guide (book)—Published by CCH, a leading provider of tax information, software, and services, this reference book is updated annually. In addition to property tax due dates and key contacts in various taxing jurisdictions, it also includes information on property tax and valuation assessment methods by jurisdiction (and a whole lot more).
- Taxography (data as a service)—Subscribers to this property tax database get current assessor contact information, tax rates, and jurisdiction boundaries.
- TaxNetUSA (data as a service)—Users can search the database by owner, address, or property ID for current information.
- CoreLogic (data as a service)—Another database of property tax information.
And if you’re just searching for general tax-related information, check out the websites for Tax Foundation and Tax Notes. These nonprofit sites are filled with articles related to federal and state taxes and tax law. If you’re interested in becoming more knowledgeable about business property taxes, these are good sites to bookmark.
Use Property Tax Software To Simplify Data-Gathering
All the above sources are useful for locating property tax data, but checking multiple sources can be time-consuming. The property tax cycle is pretty fast-paced—especially if you have multiple properties—so the less time you spend going from source to source the better. (Tweet this!)
You can reduce the amount of effort you put into information-gathering with TotalPropertyTax (TPT) and MetaTaskerPT, advanced property tax software products that dramatically streamline compliance activities. Much of the information you would look for in the sources above is already in our software (even your own property tax data, once you start using it!). Here’s how you can leverage software to save time researching:
- Use MetaTaskerPT to automatically extract all relevant data from your tax documents and create a property tax database for every property you file for—including account numbers, amounts due, due dates, payment collectors, and more. That information, which is uploaded to TPT, can then be easily accessed and quickly searched anytime information is needed. And because MetaTasker’s data extraction is based on scanned images of your property tax documents, you always have those original electronic images available to reference, right within the software. There’s never a question of how or where to get your property tax information—all of it is stored in TPT for future use.
- Use TPT’s built-in property tax database for assessment and tax bill addresses and due dates, removing the need to search assessors’ and collectors’ websites. Our software has detailed information, validated annually, that covers the return deadlines of 20,000+ assessors, and the default tax bill deadlines of 8,000+ collectors, as well as various payment options and scenarios for bill paying, such as installments and different due dates based on property type (real vs. personal property taxes). To make things even faster, once you’ve set up your system with your properties, your TPT tax calendar will automatically populate with the relevant jurisdictions’ due dates for returns, appeal filings, and tax bills, so you know exactly what tasks to prioritize. We’re continually updating our database of assessors and collectors, so it’s likely your required dates are already in our software. But as part of our new user implementation process, we can check to ensure the information for all the jurisdictions you’re reporting to is included in our property tax database.
- Use TPT’s built-in depreciation tables—or upload your own table—and skip the step of looking them up online yourself. Depreciation tables for many jurisdictions are already incorporated into TPT, so you can complete your tax returns faster.
- Use TPT’s integrated tax return forms rather than searching assessors’ websites. The latest tax forms for most jurisdictions around the country are incorporated right into the software, saving you time searching online and ensuring you get the filing process right. (TPT also automatically extracts the appropriate data from your database and populates your tax forms—watch this video to see how it generates hundreds of tax return packages in just minutes!)
- Use TPT to “see” your property in Google Maps. Whenever you have an address plugged in, TPT pulls up the associated Google Maps image automatically, saving you from having to look it up separately. Map images are helpful for seeing the whole of a property, including its surrounding parcels, to help you gather information about property value.
Still unsure how to get your property tax information—or how software can help?
Ask us. Our team is made up of experienced property tax professionals who would be happy to send you in the right direction. Or, if you’re interested in taking a look at our property tax software, let us know. Teams that use MetaTaskerPT and TPT have dramatically reduced the time they spend on information-gathering and compliance activities. As a result, they’re able to spend more time on higher-value tasks that benefit their business more. (See one company’s story here.)
Good luck with your search!