Filing A Tax Appeal

WHAT ARE THE GROUNDS FOR AN APPEAL?

An assessment appeal is not a complaint about higher taxes. It is an attempt to prove that your property’s estimated market value is either inaccurate or unfair.

You may appeal when you can prove at least one of three things:

  1. Items that affect value are incorrect on your property record card. You have one bath, not two. You have a carport not a garage. Your home has 1,600, not 2,000 square feet.
  2. The estimated market value (assessed value) is too high. You have evidence that similar properties have sold for less than the estimated market value of your property.
  3. The estimated market value of your property is accurate but inequitable because it is higher than the estimated value of similar properties.

Note: You will not win an appeal because you think your taxes are too high. This is an issue you must take up with the officials who determine budgets.
However, you may be eligible for tax relief or exemptions. The assessor’s office can give you information about deductions and exemptions.

THE APPEALS PROCESS-STEP-BY-STEP

Procedures and Deadlines
When you receive your assessment notice, read the instructions about deadlines and filing procedures. The filing deadline is April 1st. If the subject property lies within a taxing district where a municipal-wide revaluation/reassessment has been implemented, your deadline is May 1. Appeal Forms are available at the County Board of Taxation and the Assessor’s Office. Be sure you understand and follow instructions.

Informal Review
The first step in an appeal is usually an informal meeting with the Tax Assessor. The information in the Assessor’s office is public. This information may be helpful in preparing your appeal.

Preparation
Prepare for the meeting. Find your Block and Lot on your assessment notice. Use this identifier to view or obtain a copy of your property record card from the Assessor’s office.

Review the fact on the property record card. Is the architectural style correctly stated? If not, a recent photo of your home will help correct the information. Check the living area of you home, the size of your lot, the number of bathrooms and bedrooms, the presence or absence of a garage or finished basement, the construction materials, the condition, and so on.

Gather as much information as you can on similar properties in your neighborhood. Ask the Board of Taxation, the Assessor’s office or a Real Estate Broker for sales prices on these properties. Use the addresses of comparable properties to review their property record cards, which will also show their assessed values. Compare the features of these properties to the features of yours. If there are differences, the values of the properties may be different.

The Meeting
The purpose of the informal review–which is not yet an appeal–should be

  1. to verify the information on your property record card,
  2. to make sure you understand how your value was estimated,
  3. to discover if the value is fair compared with the values of similar properties in your neighborhood,
  4. to find out if you qualify for any deductions or exemptions, and
  5. to be sure you understand how to file a formal appeal, if you still want to appeal.

The Assessor will review your property record card with you and give you information about comparable properties. Present any information you have gathered.

The Assessor may not commit to a change in value at this meeting, even though you may have uncovered an error or the assessment appears to be inequitable. The decision about a value change may be made at a later date and may necessitate an inspection of your property. Ask when you may expect to hear from him/her.

View the Assessor’s office as an ally, not an adversary. Employees of the office should have been trained to be calm, polite and helpful, but they are only human. If you can be calm and polite, they are likely to be more helpful and can concentrate on giving you the information you need for an appeal.

Formal Appeal
Residential appeals are often settled at the local level. If you are not satisfied with the results of your informal review, you have several more opportunities. The first level of formal appeal is to the County Board of Taxation. Your appeal is more likely to be successful if you present evidence that comparable properties in the same neighborhood have sold for less than your assessment on or before October 1st of the previous year. This evidence must be presented to the Board of Taxation and to the Assessor ten days prior to the hearing date. Copies of property record cards, with records of their assessed values and evidence of the sale prices are your best defense. Note any differences between your property and the comparables and point out these differences. A recent appraisal of your own property may be good evidence of its value but the appraiser must be present at the hearing to testify on his/her appraisal.

The Board of Taxation will be interested only in the fairness and accuracy of the value placed on your property, not in whether you can afford to pay your taxes or whether taxes are too high. Note that unpaid property taxes and/or municipal charges are reasons for your appeal to be dismissed unheard.

If you disagree with the County Tax Board’s decision, addition legal remedy is available by filing an appeal to the Tax Court of New Jersey within 45 days of the judgment.