May 22, 2024
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The Tax Appeal Process

Of the many joys of home ownership, paying real estate taxes is certainly not one of them. This is especially the case for New Jersey homeowners who pay among the highest property taxes in the nation. Therefore it is no surprise that with the downturn in the economy over the last number of years and the continued weakness in the economy, homeowners are looking for ways to cut their expenses and have retained the services of law firms like Rubin & Dombeck, LLC to appeal their real estate taxes.

How Taxes Are Determined

Although one may pay a substantial amount of property taxes, that does not necessarily translate into one being a good candidate for an appeal. What homeowners need to realize is that when you file an appeal, you are not challenging the amount of taxes you pay, but rather you are challenging the assessed value for your property as determined by the municipality. If you have reviewed your property tax bill, you will note that the tax is calculated by multiplying two figures: the assessed value of your property and your town’s tax rate. The tax appeal process can only address the assessed value of your property as the tax rate is determined by your local government. If one takes issue with the tax rate, it should be addressed with one’s Mayor, Council, Board of Education, and County Freeholders and, of course, at the ballot box.

Should You File an Appeal?

In order to determine whether one is a good candidate for an appeal, it is important to obtain a reasonable market value of one’s home by comparing the home to similar homes that have sold during a specific time period. The comparable sales are vital to one’s success or failure in the appeal and it is therefore important to utilize acceptable comparable sales that have taken place during the appropriate time periods as required by the Tax Board. This is why utilizing the services of an appraiser or an attorney can be vital to the success of your appeal. Some lawyers or law firms, such as Rubin & Dombeck, LLC, will provide a no cost analysis to determine whether it is cost effective to file an appeal. This is critical prior to filing as it is possible for a Tax Assessor to argue that one is under-assessed. If the Assessor is successful, your assessed value could be increased resulting in higher taxes.

Filing the Appeal

From a technical standpoint, the appeal must be filed with the County Board of Taxation by April 1 of each year. A copy of the appeal must also be filed with the Township’s Tax Assessor. The appeal is in essence a lawsuit against your Township and as with any suit filed, you must have evidence to support your claim. The Township Assessor, as the defendant, will often provide his own evidence as to why he believes the assessed value is fair.

Although one does not need to retain a lawyer to file the appeal, due to the technical nature of the appeal and the need to negotiate and potentially argue in front of the Tax Board, many property owners retain law firms to represent their interests. Many lawyers and law firms such as Rubin & Dombeck, LLC offer representation on a contingency basis charging no legal fees unless they win.

The Appeal Hearing

The Tax Board will issue notices for the hearing and will allow both the homeowner and the municipality to present their case. Any and all information that will be presented at the hearing must be submitted at least seven days prior to the hearing. Failure to serve the information in a timely manner will preclude its use at the hearing. The municipality does not have to make a presentation and can rely on its assessment. Additionally, if there was a defect in the initial filing, the municipality may argue this as a basis to deny any appeal.

Unless a settlement is made prior to or at the hearing, a decision will be rendered by the County Board of Taxation. The Board usually issues its ruling within 90 days of the hearing. If one is unsatisfied with the decision, he can file an appeal to the New Jersey State Tax Court within 45 days of the order.

For more information about the tax appeal process or if you are interested in retaining our services and to determine if you are a good candidate for a tax appeal, contact Elchanan I. Dulitz, Esq. at Rubin & Dombeck, LLC at [email protected] or 201-578-1578.

Rubin & Dombeck, LLC is a full service law firm with a core emphasis on real estate. Visit our website www.rdlawllc.com for more information.

Before making your choice of attorney, you should give this matter careful thought. The selection of an attorney is an important decision. If this article is inaccurate or misleading, you may report same to the Committee on Attorney Advertising, Hughes Justice Complex, CN-037, Trenton, New Jersey 08625.

By Elchanan I. Dulitz, Esq.

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