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tax appealHow To Do A Tax Appeal

It’s tax appeal season.  How to do a tax appeal is what this article is about so let’s begin.

Every year from January 1st through March 31st Bergen County property owners can file an appeal of their property tax assessment.  You can only appeal the assessment; you can’t appeal the property tax.

Property taxes are calculated by multiplying the assessment by the tax rate.  It’s the assessment that a tax assessor gives a home which really counts.  Tax rates change every year.  Assessments stay the same for several years.

Understanding Assessments

Assessments change on a home for usually 3 reasons:

  1. A town wide re-assessment
  2. Improvements
  3. Tax appeal

When tax assessments get out of whack with market values, a town will do a revaluation of all property.  This is expensive so it doesn’t happen often.  Improvements raise assessments because the house is worth more with, for example, a new kitchen.  Successful tax appeals lower assessments.  As a result, an owner’s path to lower property taxes is by successfully appealing their home’s assessment.

Tax assessors try to make everyone’s tax burden fair when they assess a home.  They look at what homes are selling for and know the market well.  Towns hire companies to do town wide revaluations.  Assessors try to get inside every home but not all owners cooperate.  This can backfire because you can be over assessed.  Remember that if an assessor does not get inside assumptions are made that can hurt you.

The Rule of Thumb

The rule of thumb is you must prove that your current assessment should be reduced by 15% or more.  The burden of proof is on you; not on the tax assessor.  You need at least 3 but no more than 5 comparable sales which closed before October 1st of the prior year.  Appeals are filed with the Bergen County Board of Taxation in Hackensack.

The Bergen County Board of Taxation will mail you the required petition of appeal form.  You can complete it and mail it in or deliver it directly to their Hackensack location.  Email and faxing isn’t allowed.  You must also give your local tax assessor a copy.  Here’s a tip:  Cal them at 201-336-6300 if their site is overwhelmed and not responding.

Comparable sales should be near your property, have similar lot and structure size, age, style and condition.  It’s also a good idea to take pictures of your property and comparables used.  It’s essential that you know every property intimately well so you can present a detailed presentation and a suggested new value based on the evidence you cite.

While not impossible to do yourself, this is an involved process done at a public hearing.  Everything you need to know is on the Bergen County Board of Taxation website  You can also hire an attorney who specializes in tax appeals.

It’s tax appeal season and it ends on April 1st.  Do your hotax appealmework.  You must be able to prove that your assessed value should be 85% or less than it is now.  Good luck!

NOTE:   I wrote this article 3 years ago.  I’ve received several calls lately on tax appeals so it seemed right to update and re-publish it.

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