* Return the notice of appeal that is included with your assessment by the deadline. This time, it's Jan. 24, 45 days after the notices are mailed.

* Obtain a copy of the work sheet the assessor used and the prices on comparable properties sold in your neighborhood last year, both of which are available in the county assessment office, 15 East Main St., Sherwood Square, Westminster.

* Make sure the information on the work sheet about the size of your house, number of bedrooms and improvements is correct. Also check the math and the prices of the houses your assessor considered comparable to yours, and be sure those comparisons are valid.

* Focus on things that diminish the value of your house -- a leaky roof, a cracked foundation, an overflowing septic system -- as if you were a potential buyer haggling over the price.

* Remember that tax bills and government spending are irrelevant in an assessment appeal hearing. Don't waste your time raising those issues. The value of your property is all that is in question.

* If you are dissatisfied with the results of the first hearing, you can ask the county tax assessment appeal board to review the case. After that, you can appeal to the Maryland Tax Court, then to the Circuit Court.

* Information: 857-0600 or 876-1207.

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