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Use our calculator to see if you are a winner or loser in Delaware's unequal property tax system

Xerxes Wilson Jeanne Kuang
Delaware News Journal

Judging whether you are a winner or loser in Delaware’s outdated and uneven property tax system is not that easy to determine.

It has been four decades since Delaware's three counties reassessed the values of homes, and many homeowners are paying taxes on a fraction of their house's actual value. 

Unfairness comes into the system because some are paying taxes on a greater percent of their property's value than others.

This story will help you figure out where you stand.

What do I need? 

You are going to need the assessed value of your home and its market value. We'll do the math. Please note, this tool is only for residential properties. 

First, you need to figure out how much your county values your property for taxing purposes, known as taxable assessment. You can figure this out a few different ways.

The easiest way to find the number is on your tax bill. You can also call your county's assessment office (New Castle County: 302-395-5520, Kent County: 302-744-2401, Sussex County: 302-855-7824). Or, you can scope out your tax bill online by clicking on the county names in the previous sentence and following the instructions. 

This is your taxable value.

Now, you need to figure out a good estimation of the market value of your home. If your home was purchased recently, one way is to look at the recent sale prices of homes very similar and in the same neighborhood.

Websites like Zillow, Trulia and Redfin calculate a value estimate with user-submitted and market data but are not always accurate. Comparing your home's estimated price on multiple sites can show how these websites vary. Zillow actually publishes its accuracy rate here. 

The best way is to hire a professional appraiser. If you had your house appraised for financing, that figure can be used, too. Without an accurate view of the market value, the rest of the steps below will yield an inaccurate result so keep that in mind. 

Now, let's go to the calculations. There is an explanation of the importance of these calculations below the tool. 

So what did that mean?

An expert for a group suing the counties to force a reassessment studied how far off tax assessments are from market value in each county.

He found that in New Castle County, the median homeowner is paying taxes on 30% of their home's market value. In Kent County, it's 34%. In Sussex County, it's 16%.

The median is the middle point in the county, so half the homes are taxed based on a higher percent of their market value and half the homes are lower.

Understanding this, the International Association of Assessing Officers, the premier trade organization for assessors, sets standards for how much deviation from market value can be allowed from property to property for assessments to be considered fair.

Specifically, it says on average, houses should not diverge more than 15% from the median tax assessment percentage of all houses in the county.

The plaintiffs' expert determined that on average, the tax burden for residential homes vary 28% from the median in New Castle County, 18% in Kent County and 27% in Sussex County. 

Contact Xerxes Wilson at (302) 324-2787 or xwilson@delawareonline.com. Follow @Ber_Xerxes on Twitter. Contact Jeanne Kuang at (302) 324-2476 or jkuang@delawareonline.com. Follow @JeanneKuang on Twitter.