Attention New York Property Owners – Reduce Your Property Tax Bill.

In New York, grieving your property taxes means more than just complaining when your bill and assessment arrives. Each year the tax assessor for hundreds of municipalities sets a base line “assessment” for how much your they believe your real estate property is worth. Then, based upon formulas adopted by the State, they determineshow much you pay in taxes. You have the right to “grieve” your taxes by filing the correct form with your local “assessor,” in a formal review of the assessment, called a “tax grievance.”

As the property values escalated during the last decade, municipalities gleefully re-assessed the properties at higher and higher values so they could increase the amounts of revenue they collected from the real estate taxes. Homeowners are traditionally skitish about filing a tax grievance for various reasons– maybe they benefitted from such increased assessments because they took out home equity loans, or mortgages. That said, others refrained from filing a grievance fearing that the Town would reassess their property, find the various improvements made to the property, and then tax you more? While you may not file objections every year, the municipality is not permitted to raise your assessment because you grieved your taxes.

What does it mean for New York homeowners to “grieve” your property taxes. To begin with, you must file an RP-524 Form. This process is supposed to be simple, and is well explained here.

You will then be entitled to meet with the assessor and either agree with the value set, or you will be issued a decision as to the value based upon the evidence you submitted, and you may then appeal, as set forth below. Before you file this form, you should take the following steps before deciding to contest your taxes.

First, check the assessed value of your property on your municipality’s assessment roll to see if it is fair (or close to fair market value). This information is available on your town’s website. Here is a link to an overview of a sample assessment. The link explains what the assessment means. When a property is fully assessed at 100 percent, the market value and the assessed value are identical.

Next, after you see the assessed value of your home, you need to consider whether that amount is fair. Is your home worth what your town says it is worth? You should document your home’s value so you can present your evidence in your grievance. An appraiser or real estate professional can help with this task. You can also do this on your own by considering how much someone would pay for your home if you sold it on the open market. If you recently purchased or constructed your home, compare the assessment to the purchase price or cost of construction. If a hypothetical buyer is willing to buy your home at the assessed value, then the assessed value is likely “fair,” and you will have a hard time arguing that you are “over-assessed.” You can also try to compare your home to similar homes in your neighborhood. For example, if your neighbor’s home is nearly identical in lot size, bedroom number, number of bathrooms, etc., but that home’s assessment is significantly less than your home’s assessed value, then the assessment of your home might be too high. If you are over-assessed, you are probably paying too much in taxes, and may have an argument.

Next, you must carefully learn the date by which all tax grievances must be filed. The “tax grievance” day is the last day to file a grievance, and you should not wait to file for the informal review with your municipality. This will enable you to exchange information with the assessor and possibly lower your assessment. Remember, a lower assessment means a lower tax bill. If your town does not offer an informal assessment procedure, you can complete this administrative form and submit it to your town’s assessing department during the formal grievance period. Check with your town for the dates.

If you are denied a reduction but you still believe your home is over-assessed, New York allows judicial (court) review of the assessment. If you are thinking of asserting your rights in court, you should contact a local real estate attorney to discuss your options. We offer cost-effective flat rate representation for people interested in filing a grievance or an appeal cared a SCAR petition.

The Small Claims Assessment Review is a procedure that provides property owners with an opportunity to challenge the assessment on their real property as determined by the Board of Assessment Review (the Board) (in counties outside Nassau and NYC) or the Assessment Review Commission (ARC) (in NYC and Nassau County). It is a less costly and more informal alternative to a formal Tax Certiorari proceeding, which can be time consuming and expensive. As outlined in Section 730 of the Real Property Tax Law, property owners may petition the court for review of their property assessment before a specially trained hearing officer for a nominal fee of $30.

The Bottom Line– if you think your house is over assessed, you should avail yourself of the right to challenge the tax assessment.