How do Property Taxes Work?

So, who decides how much my home is worth?

The short answer is that DC Government decides. Every year we conduct a property assessment of your home to update our estimate of your home’s market value. Our assessors use standardized methods to calculate your property’s current value. The methods take into account renovations recently made to your home and sale prices of homes in your neighborhood to arrive at your assessed property value. Renovation information is provided by the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs that grants building permits. Home sale information is provided by the DC Office of Tax and Revenue that keeps the official record of who owns (holds the deed to) each property in the District. Every year in February you’ll receive a mailed notice letting you know your property’s new assessed value. This value will be used to calculate how much you owe in property taxes.

What if I think my assessed property value is incorrect?

You have the right to appeal it. We encourage you to take a look at the property assessment appeal process, which details the steps.

Is there anything that keeps my property value from rapidly changing year to year?

Yes. While your home’s assessed value can grow or fall at any rate, DC has a tax cap to protect homeowners from being overburdened by unexpected taxes. The DC tax cap means that you cannot be taxed on more than 10 percent of last year’s taxable assessment. This doesn’t change your home’s new assessed value, but it means that you get a credit on your property tax bill, so that it is lower than it would have been without the tax cap. There are two exceptions to keep in mind:

  • The 10% cap does not apply when the home changes ownership. It’s possible to see more than a 10% increase in the tax year after you buy your home.
  • The taxable assessment must be at least 40% of your home’s assessed value.
For example, let’s say a home’s value was assessed at $500,000 in 2020. Then the next year, 2021, it was assessed at $575,000. That would be a 15 percent increase in assessed value. Since that’s more than a 10 percent increase, the Assessment Cap kicks in. The homeowner’s taxes would instead be based on a taxable assessment of $550,000 (because that’s 10 percent more than 2020’s assessment). In 2021, the homeowner’s annual property taxes would be $4,675 ($550,000 times 0.0085 = $4,675).

When do I pay my property taxes and how?

Property taxes are collected twice a year. Half of the annual amount is due on March 31, and the bill is mailed to you in February. The other half is due on September 15, and the bill is mailed to you in August. There are several ways to make sure you pay your property tax bills on time. First, check to see if your mortgage lender or servicer is paying them for you. Sometimes your monthly mortgage bill includes property taxes in it and the lender/servicer pays the government on your behalf. They hold these in an escrow account. You can find this out by contacting your lender/servicer. If that’s not happening, then you should pay the DC Office of Tax and Revenue directly via check, money order, or electronic payment. Your property tax bills will explain these instructions as well.

Where do I find my property tax bill?

You can find your most recent property tax bill by searching your address in the DC Real Property Assessment Database.

What happens if my property tax bill never arrives in the mail or arrives late?

It is your responsibility to pay your property taxes on time. The two payment dates are always the same each year—March 31 and September 15. In February and August of each year, be sure to check the DC Real Property Assessment Database for your latest bill. You should also contact the DC Office of Tax and Revenue (202)-442-6796 to verify your information if you don’t receive the mailed bill.

What happens if I am late paying my property tax bill?

If you miss the payment deadline, a penalty of 11.5% is applied to your bill. For every month after that, an additional 1.5% is applied. For example, if your September 15 bill is $2,000 and you miss it:

  • You’ll owe $2,230 if you pay by October 15th.
  • You’ll owe $2,260 if you pay by November 15th.
  • You’ll owe $2,290 if you pay by December 15th.
Bill increases will continue until you pay the property tax bill. If you need help paying your property taxes or are worried about being able to pay, we encourage you to take a look at these resources to help you pay your property taxes and specifically the Property Tax Deferral program.

How are property taxes calculated?

The current tax rate for a DC residential property is $0.85 for each $100 of assessed value (0.85%). For example, if a home is worth $500,000, the homeowner would pay $4,250 in annual property taxes.

Property taxes are annual fees you—the homeowner—are required to pay to the DC Government. The tax is based on the value of your DC home. The taxes you pay go towards local services like schools, road repair, and the fire department. In DC, about 15% of local services and programs are paid for through property taxes.

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This page was last updated February 2021.