Taxpayers’ Spot Assessment Claim Denied

by: Thomas Olson
23 Feb 2009

The dismissal of a taxpayers’ challenge to their residential property tax assessment on the basis that it was an unconstitutional “spot assessment” was upheld on appeal for procedural reasons.  Schwartz v. Township of Wayne, Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, Docket No. A-3756-07T2.  The homeowners, Douglas and Mary Ann Schwartz, appealed their 2006 assessment, claiming that a downward adjustment should have been made to the land value to reflect that the property did not have road access on a public road.  The taxpayers argued that the Township of Wayne acted arbitrarily because their neighbors, who all had older homes, had received access adjustments on their tax assessments, and thereby singled out the Schwartz’s property for discriminatory tax treatment merely because it was a newer home on the same private road.  At trial before the New Jersey Tax Court, the taxpayers argued that by singling out lots with new homes, Wayne was “spot assessing”.  They did not produce any evidence supporting their claim that their assessment should be reduced and merely contested the dichotomoy of the access adjustments as between the “older” homes, which received a downward adjustment, and the “newer” homes (including theirs), which did not receive an access adjustment.

The Tax Court dismissed their appeal, holding that municipal tax assessments are entitled to a presumption of validity and the burden of establishing a discriminatory assessment is upon the taxpayer, which burden was not satisfied here because the taxpayers did not produce any evidence supporting their claim that their assessment was too high.  The Appellate Division agreed with the Tax Court, noting that the taxpayer did not produce any witness to testify regarding the reason for the “access adjustments”, and absent any such evidence, the court could not conclude that the assessor engaged in unconstitutional spot assessment.


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