Tax Appeals Get Real
As residential housing costs subside back to “pre-bubble” levels, residential tax appeals have increased to ensure realistic and appropriate tax costs. Residential property tax amounts can be surmised based on current municipality tax rates and the value of the property. Property tax rates are the result of the local budget process and may not be appealed but the property’s assessment may be. Though it will be recognized that rates have not changed significantly, property values have changed significantly. This change in the cost of property values has required review of residential tax costs. A tremendous advantage for residential property owners in efforts to reduce property tax bills is the open and accessible flow of information regarding 1) tax rates and 2) sales of similarly situated residential property, referred as “comparables”. These comparables can be found easily “online” and also as published in local newspapers. In addition, technology has provided ease in application for tax appeals. In most states, including New Jersey and New York, many municipalities have direct and simple filing processes, assessment procedures and hearing instructions (if necessary). Most municipalities have online forms, sometimes fill-able, which will initiate the process and thereafter, provide “step by step” instructions on the assessment procedure. Online instructions and forms can be found at county tax websites such as the Atlantic County Board of Taxation (http://www.aclink.org/taxation). Previously, a hearing was a feared event which made any home owner believe representation by an attorney would be required raising cost concerns and making the process (and any savings) prohibitive. Depending on the situation and evidence, a hearing may not be required as “settlement” may be possible. Most particularly, if the “comparables” provided with the application give supporting evidence that the property value has been incorrectly assessed, or most commonly the value of the property has changed since the property “bubble” burst, no hearing may be needed as a settlement may be reached. The most credible evidence is recent comparable sales of other properties of a similar type in your neighborhood. When using comparable sales, a listing of 3 to 5 sales should be attached to your appeal at the time of filing. Most commonly, a tax board will hear and determine all appeals within 3 months of the last day for filing appeals, sometimes extensions are permitted. Appeals from the Tax Board judgment may be possible, usually about 45 days from the date the judgment. However, it should be recognized that evidence that does not support a reduction at the local tax board level should be scrutinized before incurring the cost of an appeal. The combination of 1) reduced property values, 2) open and accessible information regarding rates and comparables to obtain evidence to support reduction, and 3) the ease of the application and procedure processes based on the use of automated application and filing systems should encourage all homeowners to review their property tax bill to ensure they are at realistic amounts.
updated on 4/5