Tax Court Expands Rights of Residential Taxpayers in Presenting Cases Before County Boards of Taxation
As hearings before County Boards of Taxation throughout the State get underway for 2010 tax appeals, the New Jersey Tax Court has provided some clarification on what evidence is admissible in these proceedings, and limits the authority of a County Board to dismiss for lack of prosecution (“LOP”). In Austin v. Township of Pemberton, Judge DeAlmeida, the Presiding Judge of the New Jersey Tax Court, held that a County Board may not dismiss a property tax appeal for LOP where a residential taxpayer appears before that Board and provides testimony describing the subject property and the recent acquisition of the residence. While such testimony may not be sufficient to warrant a reduction in the assessment, it does constitute evidence of value sufficient to preserve the taxpayer’s right to file an appeal of a County Board judgment to the Tax Court. Judge DeAlmedia went further to hold that a County Board may not refuse to allow a residential taxpayer to testify regarding the recent purchase of the home and then dismiss the appeal for LOP. A copy of this decision, which has been approved for publication, is available here.
The court examined prior court opinions on what constituted “some evidence.” Some evidence was found where the property owner’s only evidence was its attorney’s cross-examination of the assessor about property value information in the municipality, VSH Realty, Inc. v. Twp. of Harding, 291 N.J. Super. 295 (App. Div. 1996), but not when commercial comparables were used by a homeowner to establish a residential property’s value. Ganifas Trust v. City of Wildwood, 15 N.J. Tax 722 (App. Div. 1996). The court determined that the three property owners’ presentations may not have warranted a reduced assessment, but would have satisfied the “some evidence” standard to avoid dismissal at the tax board level.
The VSH Realty case, which was relied upon by the Tax Court in the Austin matter, was argued before the tax board and tax court by McKirdy & Riskin’s Anthony Della Pelle . The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Cory Kestner of McKirdy & Riskin in the preparation of this article