How To Succeed in Challenging New Jersey Tax Assessments

If your home is located in New Jersey and its assessed taxable value is on the higher side, then you will also be paying higher property taxes on it. If you feel that the assessment is unfair, you can challenge it, and get the revised taxable value so that you can save substantially on taxes.

This article provides information on how to go about challenging an unfair taxable value.

For starters, you should be able to prove any one of these:

  • The information on which the taxable value was determined by the tax assessing officer was wrong or inadequate. Suppose the taxable value is fixed on the assumption that the living area of your home is 2,250 sq.ft, when in fact, it is merely 1,750 sq.ft.;
  • The assessed taxable value is unfair because there are homes similar to your home within your community and the taxable values of these homes is lower than the taxable value assessed for your home.
  • The tax assessing officer has overestimated the prevailing market value of the New Jersey home belonging to you.

If you have noticed such discrepancies and are confident that the tax assessor erred, then you should adopt the following procedure to try and get the taxable value revised.

Discuss the factor with your tax assessor

If you have proof that will convince the tax assessor to reduce the taxable value of your New Jersey home, then there is not much remaining to be done, because the tax assessor will agree to see to it. Effectively, you are spared from any appeal at the administrative level.

Tax assessors differ according to communities. You would need to know who your tax assessor is to discuss the matter. Usually, you can obtain that information by calling up the office of the local municipal government. Many of those municipalities also provide contact information of tax assessors on their websites. Tax assessors are not out to treat people unfairly. So you may be able to reach a solution. You will need to set up an appointment with him or her.

You should take copies of the documents you intend to provide as proof of your argument with you. Therefore, you need to carry documents such as reports of the tax assessor and other documents that prove that there is an error in the information.

Do not get argumentative, or try to accuse the tax assessor, nor complain about excessive property taxes because of his or her valuation. Instead, focus on the documentary evidence you can produce for bringing down the taxable value of your home.

The tax assessors are reasonable. If they are convinced, they will then make the necessary changes in your property’s taxable value immediately. But more often than not the process will take a couple of days or even weeks.

Administrative appeal

The tax assessing officer may not agree to your contention. You can then ask for revision of the valuation using the appeal route. To file any appeal you need to know where to file it. The appeal should be sent to the tax board in your county.

Apart from where to send the appeal you also need to know when to send it. You need to file that appeal within 45 days from the day the assessment notice has been mailed to you by the tax assessor, or by April 1st, whichever of the two dates is latest. However, if the assessing officer has assessed the entire community, the deadline would be May 1st.

You can reduce some of your work load as well as time for the process by calling up the office of the tax assessor and getting the details of the necessary paperwork that needs to be furnished on or before the deadlines mentioned above. Following such submission, the administrative office will conduct a hearing in which the evidence furnished by you will be perused and considered.

Note that if you plan to argue your case based on evidence showing taxable values of comparable properties, you need to furnish the relevant copies not less than a week before the day on which the hearing is posted.

If your argument is based on the findings of any appraiser, you need to furnish the copies of that appraiser’s report. This report also needs to be furnished not less than a week before the hearing date. In this case, however, the appraiser should be present at the hearing for further clarifications so you would need to co-ordinate that.

Hint: If the estimated taxable value of your home exceeds $1 million, approaching a county Tax Board is not necessary. Instead you can directly appeal for revision in the New Jersey Tax Court. This process, however, is more complex. Therefore, you would be better off availing of the services of any New Jersey Tax Attorney who has considerable experience in these matters.

In general, the following documents become the basis for any appeal, so take care of them, and obtain enough copies of them.

  • Any document that evidences that your home has recently been appraised including any recent appraisal;
  • An estimate from a contractor indicating the extent of repairs needed in your home, and how much such works will cost you;
  • Any documents evidencing recent sale prices around your home, and
  • Pictures of homes which are similar in features, age, condition, etc., along with the sale prices or their taxable values.

You will get only about 5 to 10 minutes to present your arguments on the hearing date fixed by the administrative office. Therefore, you do need to prepare yourself well to express your views as briefly as possible, covering all the crucial points and using the evidence well. So keep the evidence organized in sequential order.

It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that you need more copies of each document you intend to use at the hearing as evidence. These would have to be submitted at the hearing.

You can improve your chances of winning the argument by submitting information in charts. Therefore, you can prepare a chart that compares the taxable values of homes in your neighborhood with the taxable value of your home. Similarly, you can prepare a chart that shows taxable values of homes with specifications and condition similar to your home, vis-a-visthe taxable value of your home as assessed by tax assessing officer. Finally, you can give another chart that shows homes comparable with your home which were sold recently, and their sale prices indicated on the chart, along with another graph of recently sold homes in your neighborhood, and their sale prices. This chart of course needs to include the sale price of your home as assessed by the tax assessing officer.

On the day of the hearing remember to be there well ahead of time. That way you might also get some additional hints from other hearings. Based on such preparation and the stand that the court took in previous hearings you can request the court for a review of the taxable value of your home as determined by your county’s tax board in recent assessments.

Outcome

Despite such preparations, the administrative office’s decision may go against your appeal. In such case, you still have a choice. You can now approach the New Jersey Tax Court to seek review of the taxable value fixed by the Tax Board. Any such appeal to this authority should be made within 45 days of the day the Tax Board posted its decision on your appeal. As mentioned before, here you do need an experienced lawyer’s advice and guidance. You would be better off letting the lawyer represent you if the matter is indeed reaching this court.