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September 28, 2021

Tips for Sourcing Property Tax and Commercial Real Estate Data

From manual scraping to leveraging third-party providers, industry professionals share their experiences sourcing property tax and related data

Property tax teams regularly need to find and use property tax and commercial real estate data to carry out day-to-day activities. Assessment notices, appeal documents, tax bills, and sales and market information are just a few examples of data that property tax teams are searching for and using daily.

But it's not always easy for teams to find the data they need, nor is data always complete. Third-party providers may have gaps in jurisdictional data, and variations in how companies are expected to access data from certain jurisdictions add layers of complexity. For example, tax bills, assessment notices, and appeal documentation are often mailed to companies in paper format; sometimes, however, they must be downloaded electronically from a jurisdiction’s website.  

With differences and challenges like these, teams have to hunt down missing information using a variety of methods and sources. We wanted to understand how property tax teams approached the challenge of sourcing property tax and commercial real estate data. So we spoke with industry professionals to learn how and where they source property tax, assessment, and real estate market data.  

Obtaining property tax and commercial real estate data

Today, real estate tax teams typically pull property tax data from a variety of sources:  

  • Third-party data providers
  • Paper documents that are mailed to them
  • Manually sourcing the data via assessor websites

Because third-party data providers will often have robust data sets for larger jurisdictions, they may be used by real estate teams as a first pass. However, these data providers often lack data for smaller regions. What’s more, data may not become available to third parties until after tax bills and assessment notices are already mailed out. This may not be fast enough for property tax teams, who rely on that data to determine appeal opportunities, build forecasts and models, and carry out other important activities.

As such, manual approaches are typically used to fill in the gaps. This includes manually keying in data from paper documents received by mail or from a jurisdiction’s website.  

Suffice it to say that manually entering data from paper tax bills can be a pain (not to mention inaccurate). Luckily, that part of the process can be streamlined with the use of data abstraction technology like itamlink Capture, which helps you easily digitize and store paper tax bills electronically.  

Different approaches to sourcing property tax data

Depending on the size of the portfolio, location of properties, and other factors, different approaches will work better for different teams. For companies whose portfolio is largely in major markets, third-party data providers likely work well as a first step. However, a solid plan will include steps to source data that’s missing or not released to third parties in time.

Examples of methods used by industry professionals

An International Tax Manager at a multinational uses a combination of third parties and manual methods. Their team begins with a manual approach, with internal Real Estate Managers compiling paper documents first. They then fill in blanks with data from assessor websites or by making phone calls to the jurisdiction. If key information is still missing, they work with consultants to help fill in gaps.

Of course, third parties aren’t a solution that works for all companies. One VP of Property Tax we spoke with investigated third parties as a first step. But they quickly ruled it out, because their organization had properties spread across a high number of jurisdictions. With a presence in so many regions, many of which were small, a data provider couldn’t guarantee they would get their data on time.

Consider your property tax and real estate data needs

An additional, equally important consideration is not only what data you need, but also what format you need data in.  

Some property tax teams will require the original paper tax bills for completing their payment processes. However, third parties may not provide the original bill. As such, a combination approach may be necessary simply to capture both the data fields and the original, scanned PDF.  

How software can help with obtaining commercial real estate data

Data Entry

All property tax teams receive at least some of their tax documents – and often, most of it – in paper. If you’re pulling data from these bills for your tax processes, manually digitizing this data is a slow, error-prone process.  

With tools such as itamlink Capture, tax bills and assessment notices can be scanned, uploaded, and digitized within a property tax system. This means the paper notices can then be stored as indexed, searchable electronic data, making it possible to find information later, run reports, and analyze it at a high level. What’s more, an original PDF copy can also be appended to the appropriate property or parcel so it can be easily located later (and used in payment processes as required).  

Document Management and Accessing Historical Data

A document library is another feature offered by some software solutions (including itamlink). These electronic repositories append original, scanned copies of property tax documents to the relevant properties and/or parcels, where they can be easily located later. As we mentioned above, those historical documents can be extremely useful in subsequent years for filling in jurisdictional data gaps. They can also be required when completing payment processes, so are good to have on hand in an easy-to-find place.

Acquiring information on time is essential when working within the property tax lifecycle. Determining a data sourcing strategy that works for your team and working with a dedicated property tax management software can streamline your tax processes and ensure all required data is sourced and received.

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© 2023 Rethink Solutions. All Rights Reserved
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© 2023 Rethink Solutions. All Rights Reserved