As a New Jersey property tax appeal attorney, I spend significant time explaining the tax appeal process to clients. This blog is intended to answer some of the most common questions about appeals to the county Boards of Taxation, a.k.a. county tax boards. Appeals to New Jersey’s state Tax Court are different in some ways. Thus, we will address them in another blog post.
When do I have to file my property tax appeal?
For most of New Jersey, tax appeals must be filed on or before April 1 of the year on appeal, or within 45 days of the bulk mailing of assessment notices. However, the deadline is May 1 when there is municipal-wide revaluation or reassessment.
For counties participating in the “Assessment Demonstration Program,” the filing deadline for properties with an assessed value of $1,000,000 or below is January 15 of the tax year in question. If the assessment is greater than $1,000,000, the appeal can be filed until April 1, but must be filed at the New Jersey Tax Court.
What happens after the filing of an appeal?
The Tax Board will schedule a hearing, generally within a few weeks of filing. Prior to the hearing, the municipal tax assessor will often schedule an inspection of the property. You are also preparing to present your case to the Tax Board, and sometimes negotiating with the tax assessor or attorney to resolve the appeal.
Who decides a tax appeal?
If your assessment is $1,000,000 or less, your county’s Tax Board will hear your appeal first. The Tax Board consists of commissioners appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the state Senate. Tax Board Commissioners primarily hear disputes involving the property’s assessed value.
Do I need an attorney?
Business entities, other than sole proprietorships, require representation by an attorney. The taxing district is the opposing party and is represented by an attorney. Individual owners may represent themselves but should hire an attorney to guide them through the process.
Who qualifies as an expert witness?
An expert witness is someone qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education to give an opinion on an important issue in a dispute. The opinion must involve scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge. In a tax appeal, the most common expert witness is an appraiser. The municipal assessor may also testify at the hearing as an expert witness.
How do I get an expert for my appeal?
If you want to have an expert testify at your hearing, you must hire an appraiser to prepare a report on your property’s market value. You must supply copies of the appraisal report to the tax assessor and Tax Board Member at least 7 days before the scheduled hearing. The appraiser who completes the report must be available to testify at the hearing. The municipal attorney can cross-examine the appraiser. An expert's qualifications may also be challenged at the hearing.
Do I have to have a hearing?
No. If the tax assessor, municipal attorney, and taxpayer agree to a settlement, a hearing may not be necessary. In addition, some counties now conduct hearings via teleconference, Zoom or similar means. The Tax Board must approve all settlement stipulations. Keep in mind that all meetings at the county Board of Taxation are public meetings.
When are property tax appeal hearings?
Tax Board hearings usually take place within three months of the filing deadline – whether January 15, April 1 or May 1 - unless the county receives an extension from the Division of Taxation.
What happens if I don’t go to my hearing?
If you do not show up for the hearing, you should expect a dismissal of your case for lack of prosecution. These judgements are final for the current year and generally cannot be appealed to the New Jersey Tax Court. Adjournments are usually denied, so you should make every effort to prepare for and attend your hearing.
Again, these are just some of the common questions about New Jersey property tax appeal process. Future blogs will discuss other parts of the appeal process. Please call me if you have other questions or want to see if you could benefit from an appeal of your property’s tax assessment.
To function, local governments collect property taxes from commercial property owners and homeowners within their borders. The amount of taxes a property owner pays depends on the assessed value of the property and the local tax rate. A tax assessment is an opinion of value from the local tax assessor. Because there are many factors that affect a property’s value, assessments can often be wrong. Consequently, the resulting assessment can be excessive or discriminatory.
Your assessment may be excessive or discriminatory if it meets one of these two standards:
Sale Price v. Assessed Value
The NJ State Division of Taxation, with assistance from local assessors, annually conducts a survey of real estate sales in every town in the state. The primary purpose of the study is to help allocate school aid funds among New Jersey municipalities. However, it plays an important role in determining whether your assessment is fair. In the annual survey, every sale price in town is compared with the property’s assessment value. These comparisons yield a ratio of sale price to assessed value.
The average of the sale price to assessed value ratios is known as the average ratio, or Director’s average ratio, or simply the Director’s ratio. The Director’s ratio represents the “common level” of assessment in your community. In any year except the year of a district-wide revaluation or reassessment, the common level of assessment is used by the Tax Court or County Tax Board to help determine the fairness of your assessment.
What if I don't think my assessment is fair?
You may appeal your property’s assessment every year. Therefore, depending on the assessed value of the property, you may file at the County Tax Board or state Tax Court. Once the Tax Court or County Tax Board determines the true value of the property on appeal, it must compare the property’s true value to the assessed value.
If the ratio of assessed value to true value exceeds the Director’s average ratio by 15%, there is a reduction of the assessment.
On the other hand, if the assessed value to true value ratio falls below the common level, the Tax Board must increase the assessment to the common level.
The taxpayer must supply the County Tax Board with sufficient evidence to determine the true market value of the property. Appellants should know their district's average ratio before filing a tax appeal. This ratio changes each year for use in the next tax year.
Have Questions or Need Help?
As a property tax appeal lawyer, I know the complexities of these concepts. Hence, it is common for business owners and homeowner to have questions. Please call me if you need more information or clarification. Also, if you think that your property taxes are too high, contact me for a free assessment review. I can tell you if your property’s assessment is excessive or discriminatory.