Property Tax Appeals
For information on Tax Appeal Service in New Jersey, please visit http://newjerseytaxappeals.net
Below are some general FAQs regarding Tax Appeals
Q. If we were to ask you: “Are your Property Taxes too high?”, what would you answer?
A. While New Jersey homeowners on average pay the highest property taxes in the country, the answer to this question really depends on whether your property is assessed too high. If your property is properly assessed, then even if your taxes are high, they are not too high compared to what your neighbors and other people in your town are paying. If, however, your assessment is too high, then you are paying more than you should and hopefully we can help.
Q. What is an assessment and how is it determined?
A. All taxable property in your town is assigned a value by the local assessor. This assessed value, or “assessment” should reflect the actual market value of your property, multiplied by a percentage, called the sales ratio. Every town has a set sales ratio. Market value is what your house is actually worth; the price your house should sell for if you sold it today. To see if the assessed value of your home fairly reflects its market value, you would take your assessed value and divide it by your town’s sales ratio. This number is supposed to approximate the true market value of your property. If the value assigned by the assessor, multiplied by the sales ratio is significantly different from what other properties like yours are selling for, you have the basis for a tax appeal. One note, the assessed value is determined on October 1st of the prior year, so for 2010, the date you should be looking at for determining value is October 1, 2009.
Q. What is a Tax Appeal hearing and who will hear my appeal?
A. In most cases, an appeal of your assessment is filed with the County Board of Taxation. The County Board consists of 3 to 5 members, called Commissioners, who are appointed by the Governor. The Commissioners are appointed primarily to hear disputes involving assessments. If you dispute your assessment, a hearing will be held. At the hearing, the municipality is the opposing party and will be represented by the municipal attorney. The assessor and/or an appraiser may appear at your hearing to represent the municipality as an expert witness for the municipality.
Q. How can we help you?
A. We are trained to review your case and determine if you have a good chance of lowering your assessment. We are experienced real estate attorneys. We work closely with other real estate professionals, such as appraisers and Realtors, to establish the actual value of your property, which is critical to win an appeal. We have access to sales records and the knowledge to know which sales can be used to support your case.
Q. What do we charge?
A. We offer a variety of billing options, which include flat fee, contingency fee or hourly billing. Under a contingency fee arrangement, if we do not lower your assessment, we do not get paid a fee. We are that confident in our record of success!
Q. Who can qualify for this Tax Appeal Consulting Service?
A. Any property owner in one of the 21 counties may qualify for a tax appeal, provided that the applicant can prove that their assessment is unreasonable compared to the market value standard.
Q. How do I know if my assessment is Fair?
A. The New Jersey Legislation adopted a formula know as chapter 123 in 1973 to test the fairness of an assessment. Once a tax board has determined the true market value of a property during an appeal, they are required to automatically compare the true market value to the assessment. If the ratio of the assessment to true value exceeds the average ratio by 15%, then the assessment is automatically reduced to the common level. If the assessment falls within this common level range, no adjustment will be made. If the assessment to true value ratio falls below to common level, the Tax Board is obligated to increase the assessment to the common level. This test assumes that the taxpayer has provided sufficient evidence to the Tax Board so they may determine the true market value of the property subject to the appeal. These ratios change annually for each taxing district on October 1, for use in the subsequent tax year.
Q. What is the deadline for filing a Tax Appeal
A. Municipalities generally generate assessment notification cards to each property owner on or about February 1st of the taxing year. Tax appeal filing deadline is April 1st. No extensions are granted beyond this filing date deadline.
Q. What is a Tax Appeal hearing and who will hear my appeal?
A. Once you have filed your tax appeal, a hearing before the County Tax Board is scheduled. The county Tax Board consists of 3 to 5 members who are appointed by the governor. The Tax Board commissioners are appointed primarily to hear disputes involving assessments. The municipality is the opposing party and will be represented by the municipal attorney. The assessor and or an appraiser may appear at your hearing to represent the municipality as an expert witness for the municipality.
Q. Is a hearing always Necessary?
A. A hearing is always necessary. If the assessor, municipal attorney, and the taxpayer agree to a settlement or the issues are otherwise resolved, it may not be necessary for you to attend your scheduled hearing, particularly if a settlement stipulation form is submitted to the Tax Board for their approval.
Q. When is the tax appeal hearings held?
A. Tax appeal hearings are held after the April 1st filing date deadline. Adjournments are usually denied. It is recommended that the taxpayer make every attempt to attend your hearing as scheduled. If you miss your hearing date and you have not received a notice in writing from the County Board postponing your case, you may assume that your case has been dismissed for lack of prosecution.
Q. What is good evidence to convince the Tax Board to reconsider an assessment?
A. You are not appealing the taxes on your property as the taxes are a result of the municipal budget process. You must be current and pay the collector all taxes and municipal charges through the first quarter of the tax year. The burden is on the appellant to prove that your assessment is incorrect, unreasonable, or excessive. It is also necessary for you to prove from the beginning that your assessment is in error. It is also necessary that you prove a more appropriate value for your property. The taxpayer must present credible evidence supported by fact, not assumptions or beliefs. Photographs of the property being appealed as well of the comparable sales are a useful tool to help illustrate your argument.
The most credible evidence is comparable sales which are similar in size style and use and have recently sold and are located within your neighborhood. These comparable sales can be provided at the hearing by your real estate expert, provided that they are presented to the assessor and the Tax Board in writing, 7 days prior to the hearing date. These sales are also available to the public via public sales records.
Q. If the property was recently purchased, how is the purchase considered?
A. An assessment is an opinion of value. Uniformity of treatment dictates minor adjustments are not made simply due to a recent sale of a property. For various other reasons the subjects sales price may not necessarily be either conclusive evidence of the subject’s true market value, or binding upon the Tax Board. An examination of the circumstances surrounding the sale is always important.
Q. Will the appeal be private?
A. No. All meetings of the County Board of Taxation are public meetings.
Q. Are there special rules for commercial properties?
A. Yes. Owners of rental income properties must supply an income and expense statement at the time of filings on special forms provided by the Tax Board. Since the income generated by a property has a direct bearing on the owner’s ability to market the property, and therefore its value, this evidence may be useful in arguing both sides of an appeal.
Q. Who is an expert Witness?
A. Besides your municipal assessor, anyone whose occupation is a real estate appraiser, and whose designation as such is from a legitimate association of professionals, is considered an expert. An expert’s qualification’s can be challenged by the municipal attorney at the hearing.
In addition, if you intend to rely on expert testimony at your hearing, you must supply one copy of your appraisal report to the assessor, and one copy to every member of the County Tax Board and Tax Administrator at least 7 days prior the scheduled hearing date. The appraiser who completed the report must be available to give testimony and afford the municipality and the Tax Board an opportunity to cross examine the witness.
Q. May I further appeal the judgment of the Tax Board if I am still dissatisfied?
A. If you are dissatisfied with the judgment rendered by the Tax Board, you will have 45 days from the date of judgment to file a further appeal with the Tax Court of New Jersey. If your property is assessed for more than $1,000,000, you may file directly with the Tax Court by April 1st annually.