A property tax consultant works with property owners to help them keep their property taxes at a minimum and challenge assessments they believe are excessive. While property taxes commonly are charged on all manner of property in the US, most property tax consultants concentrate on the taxes due on real estate. To become a property tax consultant, then, one should have a thorough grounding either in real estate, real estate appraisal, property tax assessment, or some combination of these fields.
Property tax consultants will review a subject property's assessed value and work with different sources to validate or challenge it. They will compare assessments with those of similar properties in the neighborhood and similar neighborhoods in the taxing jurisdiction and determine if tax valuations are consistent with actual market values. Their goal in this investigation is to develop enough of a case to challenge the assessment and force a reduction in real estate taxes. The investigation itself will be relatively short, lasting no more than a week or two; the appeals process itself may drag on for months but doesn't involve much of the consultant's time. In that process, the consultant may appear before an appeals board with or on behalf of the client.
Property tax consultants learn their trade from a variety of sources. Although there are currently no degree programs offered in the subject, most colleges and universities, including community colleges, offer coursework in taxation, real estate and property appraisal that would provide a good academic foundation to become a property tax consultant. Much of the training to become a property tax consultant, however, comes primarily from direct experience in the field of real estate appraisal, sales and taxation, either as a real estate agent, broker, CPA, or lawyer.
As with any consulting job, compensation can be irregular. Some property tax consultants will charge by the hour or the property, but most will charge a percentage &emdash; as much as 50% &emdash; of the annual tax reduction they can win for the client. This might seem like a high price for a relatively short period of work, especially in the case of commercial properties paying tens of thousands of dollars annually in taxes, but the property owner will experience the same saving annually until the next assessment, which might be many years in the future.
The relationship between a property tax consultant and property owners is transient &emdash; unlike more routine tax matters like income taxes, property tax assessments aren't made annually, and there's not the same sort of relationship that one might establish over time with a trusted tax preparer or a lawyer. Thus, there's very little repeat business for the property tax consultant – most business is new business, although a successful consultant will see a good amount of referral business. Additionally, while someone with the appropriate training and skills theoretically could go into any jurisdiction and become a property tax consultant, it's likely that the more familiar one is with a particular jurisdiction or region, the greater chance there will be for success.
Only Texas requires a license to become a property tax consultant; in that state, 40 hours of classroom instruction is required unless applicants have related, documented experience. Since property tax appeals often involve the judicial process at some point, most property tax consultants have affiliations with lawyers who will represent the client should the appeal need to be pursued in court. Some states also hold that property tax consultants who operate on their own are practicing law without a license; in those states, property tax consultants usually operate under the supervision of an attorney.