Take a Second Look at Your Taxes

August 14, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Nobody likes paying taxes... but did you know you might be paying a lot more than you have to? Here's how not to overpay the government.Homeowner Sandy Lamba knows the past few years have been a wild real estate ride. He's seen the value of his Clovis home climb as high as $260,000 over what he originally paid: "We were like wow, in a few years, we could sell this and make a huge profit and you know, look forward to a nice retirement and all that."

But just as quickly, when the market turned, the value of his home fell. Homeowners like Lamba could benefit from asking the county assessor to reasses their homes to get a break on property taxes. Lamba plans to request a reassessment: "In today's economy, you need to save wherever you can. I don't want to pay more money than I have to pay. That's money we work hard for and never get back."

Just last month Fresno County sent out automatic reassessment notices to 45,000 homes sold between 2004 and 2007. The difference can be staggering: the reassessed value on one home is $451,700, compared to the previous value of $639,845.... a difference of thousands of dollars in taxes! So if your property value has declined significantly, file an assessment appeal with your county in person or online.

www.co.fresno.ca.us/DepartmentPage.aspx?id=20537

www.countyofkings.com/acr/assessor/index.html

www.co.tulare.ca.us/government/property/default.asp

http://www.madera-county.com/assessor/assessmentinfo/prop8.html

http://www.co.merced.ca.us/assessor/index.html

http://www.mariposacounty.org/assessorandrecorder/index.html

While online, why not check the California State Controller's website too? ( http://www.sco.ca.gov/col/ucp/index.shtml )

Just type in your name to see if the state is holding on to your unclaimed money or property. I found $1200 I didn't know I had! Over 5 billion dollars in forgotten money and property from abandoned California safety deposit boxes and financial accounts sits in the state vault unclaimed.

Fresno C.P.A. Laura Cullen says why let the government keep what's rightfully yours? "And I think everybody agrees with that. You don't even have to convince people. it's actually taking the time to do it."

Cullen says another way to keep more of your money: increase your W-4 witholdings with your employer. The more allowances you claim, the less tax money is taken from your paycheck. And that means more cash comes to you each pay period. So you can keep and use more of your paycheck *now* instead of waiting an entire year for a big tax refund. Cullen explains, "Let's say you got 12-thousand dollars back at the end. That's a thousand a month you could be living on that you're letting the government have. And they're not paying you interest on it."

And one more tip to keep more of your money: save for retirement with an IRA or 401k. Cullen: "401k is one of the best ways not to give the government money. You can take your money tax free and put into an account to invest. And it's not taxed when you put it in."


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