Cecinini Law Group Logo
Other Real Estate Law Services2022-12-28T18:56:16+00:00

Other Real Estate Law Services

Thousands of New Jersey property owners saved
money by appealing their Tax Assessments

Below are answers to some common questions that we’ve received from clients in the past. This section is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. Every case is different, and in certain limited circumstances filing a tax appeal can possibly result in paying higher taxes. Retaining a professional to handle your appeal is not only wise, but costs you nothing unless your appeal is successful.

What is a property tax appeal?

Your property taxes = tax rate X value of the property (the assessment). The municipality sets your assessment, and if it is higher than you could actually sell the property for as of October 1 of the prior tax year, you can file a tax appeal to reduce its assessed value. The lower the value of the assessment, the lower the property taxes. There is also a “ratio” which must be applied to the raw assessment, to determine its market value. The actual assessment is not the number you have to prove, and is often much lower than the market value of the assessment (the “equalized” assessment). So don’t think that just because the assessment on your tax bill is low, you don’t have a case. You might. You can figure out the actual value of your assessment by dividing it by the average ratio. Or contact us and we can do the math for you.

What is a property tax appeal?

Your property taxes = tax rate X value of the property (the assessment). The municipality sets your assessment, and if it is higher than you could actually sell the property for as of October 1 of the prior tax year, you can file a tax appeal to reduce its assessed value. The lower the value of the assessment, the lower the property taxes.

There is also a “ratio” which must be applied to the raw assessment, to determine its market value. The actual assessment is not the number you have to prove, and is often much lower than the market value of the assessment (the “equalized” assessment). So don’t think that just because the assessment on your tax bill is low, you don’t have a case. You might. You can figure out the actual value of your assessment by dividing it by the average ratio. Or contact us and we can do the math for you.

How does hiring your firm to handle

my tax appeal cost me nothing?

You pay nothing up front other than the filing fee which goes to the County. If I do not save you money on your taxes, I do not get paid. This is because I work on a contingency basis. My fee is ½ of the amount of money I am able to save you on your taxes for the first year. For example, if I save you $1000.00 in 2015, my fee will be $500.00. In most cases you will continue to save $1,000.00 year after year.

The best part of this is that you generally won’t be paying the fee ahead of time. My fee is due after you actually receive the benefit of your appeal.

Frequently Asked Questions

We would love the opportunity to work with you, but we understand that you may have some additional questions. This quick Q&A covers the most commonly asked questions that come our way. This FAQ section alone does not provide adequate information and advice to represent yourself, it simply serves to answer some of the common questions my clients have had in the past.

However, if you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

I am not sure whether I should file a tax appeal, what should I do?2022-09-08T21:48:50+00:00

You can call us at (201) 354-9305 or e-mail us at office@cecininilaw.com, whatever is best for you. We can look up your current assessment, and after asking you a few questions we can usually give you an answer on the spot.

I am a non-profit organization, I lost my tax-exempt status what can I do?2022-09-08T21:46:25+00:00

Non-profit property tax exemptions are usually taken away by an assessor through an added assessment. Remember, added assessments in most cases must be appealed by December 1 not April 1. Non-profit property tax exemptions can be lost when the property fails to be used for its tax exempt purpose, or if they are not renewed every 3 years.

YOU MUST BE PRO-ACTIVE IF YOU HAVE LOST YOUR TAX EXEMPT STATUS!

An appeal must be timely filed or you will be liable for the taxes. For example a case I litigated involved a church which lost its exemption but did not fully understand the implications of the added assessment it had received. As a result, they owed $37,000.00 in taxes which it was too late to appeal. They would have owed $53,000.00 more the next year but we filed an appeal just in time. In this case we were able to re-gain the tax exemption, and their $53,000.00 tax bill immediately went to $0.00.

Every case has its own facts, and results can’t be guaranteed in this extremely complex area of law, but if you have lost your tax exemption, contact us and we be able to help.

I am a non-profit organization, can I get property tax-exempt status?2022-09-08T21:45:01+00:00

Certain non-profit organizations are eligible for a property class determination giving them essentially tax-exempt status as far as property taxes are concerned. Churches are the most obvious, but many other organizations qualify for this exemption. This area of law is extremely complex, so give me a call if you have any questions about your organization’s ability to reap the benefits of a tax exemption.

I am a commercial tenant, not a property owner, but I pay the taxes on the building I rent. Can I appeal the tax assessment?2022-09-08T21:44:31+00:00

Yes most likely you can. If your lease agreement provides that you pay the property taxes on your rental premises, then you generally have standing to appeal the assessment of that property.

I own a commercial property and want to appeal my assessment. Is this any different from a residential property?2022-09-08T21:43:59+00:00

Yes it is a completely different situation if you own commercial property. First, as mentioned previously, any property that is owned by a business entity (ie a corporation or LLC) must be represented by an attorney. More importantly the method of proving value is usually different for commercial properties. While the comparable sales approach is sometimes (rarely) available to certain commercial properties, the “income approach” to property valuation is the most common method of valuing commercial properties for property tax appeal purposes.

A cap rate is applied to the potential gross rental income of the property to determine value, with some adjustments for expenses and vacancy. Commercial appeals often require appraisal report, and bigger cases are usually litigated at the State Court level.

If you own a commercial property, or if you are a commercial tenant and pay the property taxes on a property through your lease, call me I may be able to help you. After asking a few simple questions, I will in most cases be able to tell you whether your property may be over-assessed and whether an appeal is warranted. Importantly, I will be able to tell you whether an appeal may be a bad idea as well. This is a free service I provide, whether you decide to retain me in the end or not.

I have an abatement on my property, or I’m not sure if I have one, can I still appeal?2022-09-08T21:42:24+00:00

If you have an abatement/exemption on your property and you appeal your assessment, the Tax Assessor may move to eliminate it. Sometimes the tax benefits of an appeal can outweigh those of losing the abatement though. Call me if you are unsure about whether you should file, as I can guide you through the common pitfalls in this area of law.

If I win my tax appeal this year, will my savings next year be the same as they were this year?2022-09-08T21:41:51+00:00

Remember, your taxes are the assessed value of your property times the tax rate. So a 20% reduction in your assessment, for example, will be a 20% reduction in the property taxes you pay, no matter what the tax rate is next year. Remember that the tax rate for any municipality often does not come out until July or later of the tax year, so estimated billing based on the prior year’s tax rate is used for the first two quarters of any given tax year.

Can I appeal a County Level appeal to the State Tax Court?2022-09-08T21:39:03+00:00

Yes. You have 45 days from the mailing date on the County Board Judgment to file your State-level appeal. It must arrive at the State Tax Court in Trenton by the 45th day. I would be happy to discuss your options in State Tax Court, in certain cases you may have more success in that jurisdiction than at the County level.

Once I get a judgment lowering my tax assessment, do I have to appeal again next year?2022-09-08T21:39:17+00:00

In most cases you do not. “Spot assessments” are not allowed in NJ, meaning your assessment may not be exclusively raised by the municipality. The “Freeze Act” also grants some protection from re-assessments. The are exceptions to this rule, for example if your municipality conducts a revaluation/reassessment, or if you make significant improvements to your property the Assessor may raise your assessment through an added assessment. But in the great majority of cases the tax appeal reduction will stand for multiple years, and it is not uncommon for a tax assessment to remain unchanged for as long as decades.

Do I have to attend the tax appeal hearing?2022-09-08T21:39:27+00:00

If you hire an attorney to represent you, most likely you will not have to attend the hearing. This is highly fact dependent however. The vast majority of cases are settled beforehand between your attorney and the municipal Tax Assessor and don’t require a trial before the Tax Board. However if the Assessor makes no offer to settle your case, or if the offer is too low, it may be in your best interest to try the case.

Although it is not absolutely necessary that you appear at this trial, it is highly recommended that you attend. You are the only person other than an appraiser who can present factual testimony on your own behalf at the trial. If you have retained an appraiser to support your case, it becomes far less important that you attend the trial.

What is the “Corridor”?2022-09-08T21:39:44+00:00

Even if a property is over assessed after applying the average ratio, you must still apply the “upper limit” ratios to see if you have a case. Homeowners must not only prove that their property is over-assessed, it must be over-assessed by a statutory percentage. For example, generally if you can only prove that your $500,000.00 assessment should really be $499,000.00, you do not have a good case and your assessment will most likely remain at $500,000.00. A different ratio must be applied for each municipality, to find the “corridor” that must be proven in order to win your case. Find the corridor using this formula:

Actual Assessment/Upper Limit Ratio = True Market Value of your Assessment

You can find the ratio for your town here: http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/lpt/chapter123.shtml

I looked at my tax bill, and the assessed value of my home seems much lower than it should be. Why?2022-09-08T21:40:04+00:00

In most municipalities the assessed value is not the same as the actual fair market value claimed by the Assessor. The town’s Average Ratio must be applied to the assessed value of a property to determine the fair market value of the assessment. Some municipalities have average ratios as low as 1/3 of the actual fair market value of the house. You find the market value (“IMV” or “Equalized” value) of your assessment by using this formula:

Actual Assessment/Average Ratio = True Market Value of your Assessment

You can find the ratio for your town here:
http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/lpt/chapter123.shtml

Can I use the appraisal report I got from re-financing my home as evidence?2022-09-08T21:40:14+00:00

While it may help you decide whether an appeal is warranted for your property, the appraisal report issued for the purposes of re-financing your property is not adequate evidence for a tax appeal. A re-financing appraisal report generally uses different data than what must be used to prove home values for tax appeal purposes, and 364/365 times has the wrong valuation date. The valuation date for any tax appeal evidence must be October 1 of the prior tax year.

Do I need to hire an appraiser as part of this process?2022-09-08T21:40:26+00:00

In a residential tax appeal an appraisal is not always necessary to prove home values. A listing of comparable sales may often suffice. However, in higher-value residential properties — defined as those valued at $500,000.00 or higher – or in commercial cases, it is highly recommended that appellants obtain a preliminary appraisal report to support their claim.

The up-front cost of a county-ready appraisal report is generally in the hundreds of dollars, and almost always pays for itself in the first tax season that you realize savings. Each year your assessment stands thereafter the entire amount of savings goes directly to you. Even if you account for paying an appraiser to provide a report, the better result in the end will usually pay for itself, and will most likely save you more money in future tax years than if you had not hired an appraiser to begin with.

How do I prove that my tax assessment is too high?2022-09-08T21:40:37+00:00

The burden is on you to prove that your property is over-assessed. Evidence used to support the value of a residential property generally (but not always) takes the form of comparable sales from within the “sampling period”. Sales made before or after the sampling period are not usable as evidence, nor are those which fall into one of several “non-usable” categories.

For example — estate sales, even from within the sampling period, are generally not accepted by County Tax Boards as evidence of value. That said, the burden is on the tax assessor of your municipality to prove that any particular sale is non-usable for proving value, and there are circumstances in which this burden is not met. Knowledge and experience with the entire tax assessment process becomes extremely valuable in such situations.

How is a property tax appeal filed?2022-09-08T21:40:47+00:00

There is only one chance per year to appeal your property tax assessment. Typically the appeal must be filed by April 1* of the year being appealed. Taxpayers must submit appeals to their county’s Tax Board and serve notice to all appropriate parties. Appellants must also provide evidence supporting their appeal at least seven days before their hearing date.

* There are some exceptions to this date. For example, Monmouth County now has a January 15 filing date, if your town has just done a revaluation the date is typically May 1, and if you wish to appeal an added assessment you must typically do so by December 1.

Can I appeal my own property taxes?2022-09-08T21:40:57+00:00

You have the right to represent yourself in tax court as long as you are not a business entity. For example, a corporation must be represented by an attorney for a tax appeal. However this area of law has many complications, and if you don’t know what you are doing you could compromise your own interests. Each and every case has specific circumstances which must be addressed, and general information is just that, general. It costs nothing to call me, and I will be able to tell you whether you have a case or not, free of charge, whether you decide to retain my services or not. The savings you get from a successful tax appeal usually carry on for several years. It is a wise investment to do it right in year one, and hiring professionals to represent you and ensure that you don’t waste your time and money in the long run is just common sense.

I am not sure whether I should file a tax appeal, what should I do?2022-09-08T21:48:50+00:00

You can call us at (201) 354-9305 or e-mail us at office@cecininilaw.com, whatever is best for you. We can look up your current assessment, and after asking you a few questions we can usually give you an answer on the spot.

I am a non-profit organization, I lost my tax-exempt status what can I do?2022-09-08T21:46:25+00:00

Non-profit property tax exemptions are usually taken away by an assessor through an added assessment. Remember, added assessments in most cases must be appealed by December 1 not April 1. Non-profit property tax exemptions can be lost when the property fails to be used for its tax exempt purpose, or if they are not renewed every 3 years.

YOU MUST BE PRO-ACTIVE IF YOU HAVE LOST YOUR TAX EXEMPT STATUS!

An appeal must be timely filed or you will be liable for the taxes. For example a case I litigated involved a church which lost its exemption but did not fully understand the implications of the added assessment it had received. As a result, they owed $37,000.00 in taxes which it was too late to appeal. They would have owed $53,000.00 more the next year but we filed an appeal just in time. In this case we were able to re-gain the tax exemption, and their $53,000.00 tax bill immediately went to $0.00.

Every case has its own facts, and results can’t be guaranteed in this extremely complex area of law, but if you have lost your tax exemption, contact us and we be able to help.

I am a non-profit organization, can I get property tax-exempt status?2022-09-08T21:45:01+00:00

Certain non-profit organizations are eligible for a property class determination giving them essentially tax-exempt status as far as property taxes are concerned. Churches are the most obvious, but many other organizations qualify for this exemption. This area of law is extremely complex, so give me a call if you have any questions about your organization’s ability to reap the benefits of a tax exemption.

I am a commercial tenant, not a property owner, but I pay the taxes on the building I rent. Can I appeal the tax assessment?2022-09-08T21:44:31+00:00

Yes most likely you can. If your lease agreement provides that you pay the property taxes on your rental premises, then you generally have standing to appeal the assessment of that property.

I own a commercial property and want to appeal my assessment. Is this any different from a residential property?2022-09-08T21:43:59+00:00

Yes it is a completely different situation if you own commercial property. First, as mentioned previously, any property that is owned by a business entity (ie a corporation or LLC) must be represented by an attorney. More importantly the method of proving value is usually different for commercial properties. While the comparable sales approach is sometimes (rarely) available to certain commercial properties, the “income approach” to property valuation is the most common method of valuing commercial properties for property tax appeal purposes.

A cap rate is applied to the potential gross rental income of the property to determine value, with some adjustments for expenses and vacancy. Commercial appeals often require appraisal report, and bigger cases are usually litigated at the State Court level.

If you own a commercial property, or if you are a commercial tenant and pay the property taxes on a property through your lease, call me I may be able to help you. After asking a few simple questions, I will in most cases be able to tell you whether your property may be over-assessed and whether an appeal is warranted. Importantly, I will be able to tell you whether an appeal may be a bad idea as well. This is a free service I provide, whether you decide to retain me in the end or not.

I have an abatement on my property, or I’m not sure if I have one, can I still appeal?2022-09-08T21:42:24+00:00

If you have an abatement/exemption on your property and you appeal your assessment, the Tax Assessor may move to eliminate it. Sometimes the tax benefits of an appeal can outweigh those of losing the abatement though. Call me if you are unsure about whether you should file, as I can guide you through the common pitfalls in this area of law.

If I win my tax appeal this year, will my savings next year be the same as they were this year?2022-09-08T21:41:51+00:00

Remember, your taxes are the assessed value of your property times the tax rate. So a 20% reduction in your assessment, for example, will be a 20% reduction in the property taxes you pay, no matter what the tax rate is next year. Remember that the tax rate for any municipality often does not come out until July or later of the tax year, so estimated billing based on the prior year’s tax rate is used for the first two quarters of any given tax year.

Can I appeal a County Level appeal to the State Tax Court?2022-09-08T21:39:03+00:00

Yes. You have 45 days from the mailing date on the County Board Judgment to file your State-level appeal. It must arrive at the State Tax Court in Trenton by the 45th day. I would be happy to discuss your options in State Tax Court, in certain cases you may have more success in that jurisdiction than at the County level.

Once I get a judgment lowering my tax assessment, do I have to appeal again next year?2022-09-08T21:39:17+00:00

In most cases you do not. “Spot assessments” are not allowed in NJ, meaning your assessment may not be exclusively raised by the municipality. The “Freeze Act” also grants some protection from re-assessments. The are exceptions to this rule, for example if your municipality conducts a revaluation/reassessment, or if you make significant improvements to your property the Assessor may raise your assessment through an added assessment. But in the great majority of cases the tax appeal reduction will stand for multiple years, and it is not uncommon for a tax assessment to remain unchanged for as long as decades.

Do I have to attend the tax appeal hearing?2022-09-08T21:39:27+00:00

If you hire an attorney to represent you, most likely you will not have to attend the hearing. This is highly fact dependent however. The vast majority of cases are settled beforehand between your attorney and the municipal Tax Assessor and don’t require a trial before the Tax Board. However if the Assessor makes no offer to settle your case, or if the offer is too low, it may be in your best interest to try the case.

Although it is not absolutely necessary that you appear at this trial, it is highly recommended that you attend. You are the only person other than an appraiser who can present factual testimony on your own behalf at the trial. If you have retained an appraiser to support your case, it becomes far less important that you attend the trial.

What is the “Corridor”?2022-09-08T21:39:44+00:00

Even if a property is over assessed after applying the average ratio, you must still apply the “upper limit” ratios to see if you have a case. Homeowners must not only prove that their property is over-assessed, it must be over-assessed by a statutory percentage. For example, generally if you can only prove that your $500,000.00 assessment should really be $499,000.00, you do not have a good case and your assessment will most likely remain at $500,000.00. A different ratio must be applied for each municipality, to find the “corridor” that must be proven in order to win your case. Find the corridor using this formula:

Actual Assessment/Upper Limit Ratio = True Market Value of your Assessment

You can find the ratio for your town here: http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/lpt/chapter123.shtml

I looked at my tax bill, and the assessed value of my home seems much lower than it should be. Why?2022-09-08T21:40:04+00:00

In most municipalities the assessed value is not the same as the actual fair market value claimed by the Assessor. The town’s Average Ratio must be applied to the assessed value of a property to determine the fair market value of the assessment. Some municipalities have average ratios as low as 1/3 of the actual fair market value of the house. You find the market value (“IMV” or “Equalized” value) of your assessment by using this formula:

Actual Assessment/Average Ratio = True Market Value of your Assessment

You can find the ratio for your town here:
http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/lpt/chapter123.shtml

Can I use the appraisal report I got from re-financing my home as evidence?2022-09-08T21:40:14+00:00

While it may help you decide whether an appeal is warranted for your property, the appraisal report issued for the purposes of re-financing your property is not adequate evidence for a tax appeal. A re-financing appraisal report generally uses different data than what must be used to prove home values for tax appeal purposes, and 364/365 times has the wrong valuation date. The valuation date for any tax appeal evidence must be October 1 of the prior tax year.

Do I need to hire an appraiser as part of this process?2022-09-08T21:40:26+00:00

In a residential tax appeal an appraisal is not always necessary to prove home values. A listing of comparable sales may often suffice. However, in higher-value residential properties — defined as those valued at $500,000.00 or higher – or in commercial cases, it is highly recommended that appellants obtain a preliminary appraisal report to support their claim.

The up-front cost of a county-ready appraisal report is generally in the hundreds of dollars, and almost always pays for itself in the first tax season that you realize savings. Each year your assessment stands thereafter the entire amount of savings goes directly to you. Even if you account for paying an appraiser to provide a report, the better result in the end will usually pay for itself, and will most likely save you more money in future tax years than if you had not hired an appraiser to begin with.

How do I prove that my tax assessment is too high?2022-09-08T21:40:37+00:00

The burden is on you to prove that your property is over-assessed. Evidence used to support the value of a residential property generally (but not always) takes the form of comparable sales from within the “sampling period”. Sales made before or after the sampling period are not usable as evidence, nor are those which fall into one of several “non-usable” categories.

For example — estate sales, even from within the sampling period, are generally not accepted by County Tax Boards as evidence of value. That said, the burden is on the tax assessor of your municipality to prove that any particular sale is non-usable for proving value, and there are circumstances in which this burden is not met. Knowledge and experience with the entire tax assessment process becomes extremely valuable in such situations.

How is a property tax appeal filed?2022-09-08T21:40:47+00:00

There is only one chance per year to appeal your property tax assessment. Typically the appeal must be filed by April 1* of the year being appealed. Taxpayers must submit appeals to their county’s Tax Board and serve notice to all appropriate parties. Appellants must also provide evidence supporting their appeal at least seven days before their hearing date.

* There are some exceptions to this date. For example, Monmouth County now has a January 15 filing date, if your town has just done a revaluation the date is typically May 1, and if you wish to appeal an added assessment you must typically do so by December 1.

Can I appeal my own property taxes?2022-09-08T21:40:57+00:00

You have the right to represent yourself in tax court as long as you are not a business entity. For example, a corporation must be represented by an attorney for a tax appeal. However this area of law has many complications, and if you don’t know what you are doing you could compromise your own interests. Each and every case has specific circumstances which must be addressed, and general information is just that, general. It costs nothing to call me, and I will be able to tell you whether you have a case or not, free of charge, whether you decide to retain my services or not. The savings you get from a successful tax appeal usually carry on for several years. It is a wise investment to do it right in year one, and hiring professionals to represent you and ensure that you don’t waste your time and money in the long run is just common sense.

We are A Full Practice Real Estate Law Firm

If you own real estate, you need a reliable attorney who understands the interplay between the many different specialized legal areas that make up real estate law. We regularly practice in nearly every area of law that could possibly affect your New Jersey property. We understand how the various real estate practice areas interplay with one another. Our clients use this knowledge to their advantage, to both pursue their goals and prevent problems later. Established in 2010, we are a local Law Firm with a high volume practice. We don’t just advise on what the law says should happen, but also on how a case is likely to pan out in reality – based on our real, recent experiences with other clients in the same or similar situation.

We specialize in all areas of real estate law. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Call (201) 354-9305 now to speak directly with an attorney, or feel free to e-mail your inquiry directly to office@cecininilaw.com. We welcome your questions!

Other Practice Areas

Go to Top