The Process to Appeal Your New Jersey Property Tax Assessment
Although many property owners may believe that their property tax assessments are set in stone, the truth is that property taxes are not fixed expenses. Tax assessments hinge on the assessor’s calculation of the market value of a property, and it is often the case that such calculations are inaccurate or not reflective of current market value. Property taxes are major revenue generators for New Jersey municipalities, and successful tax appeals may create opportunities for hundreds or thousands of dollars in savings. New Jersey already has the highest property taxes in the country—why pay more than your fair share when rates are so high?
Recognize the Need for a NJ Property Tax Appeal
Before you challenge your property tax assessment, you should determine whether your property is over-assessed. Not every municipality assesses its properties at 100% of true value and it is important to be familiar with the applicable ratio in effect for each tax year. Sometimes, appeals become a matter of timing, since a majority of municipalities re-assess property every three to five years. You should review your assessment every year.
Understand Your Local Procedures
Filing for a property tax appeal requires strict adherence to governmental policies and deadlines. In most circumstances, your tax appeal will be filed with the County Tax Board. In New Jersey, appeals generally must be filed on or before April 1st, or within 45 days of the mailing of the Assessment Notice (Burlington, Gloucester, and Monmouth County appeals must be filed with the County Tax Board by January 15th). In areas where a municipal-wide reassessment has been performed, the deadline is May 1st. After the appeal is filed, a hearing in front of the County Tax Board is scheduled. If your property is assessed at over $1 million, or the added or omitted assessment exceeds $750,000, you may file your property tax appeal directly with the New Jersey Tax Court instead of filing with the County Board of Appeals. It is crucial to be compliant with state deadlines and procedures for your tax appeal to be successful.
Aside from filing on time, your appeal must include the proper filing fee. The filing fee for tax appeals depends upon the value:
- County Tax Board: $5 filing fee for a property assessed under $150,000
- County Tax Board: $25 filing fee for a property assessed between $150,000 and $500,000
- County Tax Board: $100 filing fee for a property assessed between $500,000 and $1,000,000
- County Tax Board: $150 filing fee for a property assessed above $1,000,000
- Small Claims Tax Court: $50 filing fee plus $10 for each additional adjoining lot (any residential property and any commercial/industrial property whose taxes were less than $25k for the prior tax year are classified as small claims)
- Tax Court: $250 filing fee plus $50 each additional adjoining lot (any commercial/industrial property whose taxes were more than $25k the prior tax year)
Determine the Grounds for Your Property Tax Appeal
After you decide to move forward with filing your appeal, the next step is to gather evidence to support it. It is important to present the County Tax Board with concrete reasons why you believe your property is over-assessed. Did the assessor list your property at a greater square footage than it actually has? Are you being assessed based on a vibrant real estate market when in reality your area is experiencing an economic downturn? Regardless of the reason, it’s essential to provide support if you want to claim that your property is over-assessed. Sales of comparable properties are usually the best evidence for a property’s value. Your evidence at the County Tax Board is due seven days before your property tax hearing.
When does the County Tax Board Make Their Decision on My NJ Property Tax Appeal?
The County Tax Board must provide hearings and decisions for all properties within three months of the filing deadline unless extended by the New Jersey Division of Taxation. Judgments are usually mailed out shortly after, meaning you will hear shortly after your hearing whether your appeal was successful.
Procedures After the County Tax Board Judgment
Individuals whose homes are assessed above $1,000,000 are not the only ones who are able to appeal to the New Jersey Tax Court. Following the hearing and decision of the County Tax Board, you may then appeal their decision to the New Jersey Tax Court. You have forty-five (45) days from the date the County Tax Board’s decision was mailed to file a complaint with the New Jersey Tax Court.
How Long Is My New Property Tax Assessment good for?
Under New Jersey’s “Freeze Act,” your new assessment will be good for two additional years (three years in total accounting your appeal year) unless the municipality undergoes a revaluation or reassessment of properties during one of the freeze years or there is a substantial change in the value of your property during one of the freeze years (i.e. you put an addition or get a zoning change for a higher and better use).
Seek the Guidance of an Experienced NJ Property Tax Appeal Attorney
While the guidelines above provide a basic outline of the process, tax appeals can be complicated and each case presents its own intricacies. From advising on the timing of appeals to contributing expert knowledge about local real estate markets, an experienced tax appeal attorney can help you navigate through the specifics of each individual case.
The author acknowledges the assistance of William Olson, a law clerk at McKirdy, Riskin, Olson & DellaPelle, in preparing this article. Mr. Olson is a member of the class of 2021 at Rutgers Law School.