Assisted by a tax appeal firm, the Sfarras managed to put this right and got the assessed value of their home decreased from $351,000 to $310,000. This gave them the benefit of saving $1,000 worth of tax, which is a real gain when you are paying in excess of $8,000 in tax. Nora Sfarra was happy that she “got something off” in any event.
Dorothy Monoopli was in a similar scenario and had to appeal as the Sfarras did on how much her condo in Hackensack was assessed for. She ended up saving $30,000 as a result of her lower tax assessment.
Both Ms Monoopli and the Sfarras are among many thousands of North Jersey residents who have contested tax assessments on the real estate that they own, a necessity with the drop in the value of homes in recent years. And it is a scramble for these people to get their paperwork in order for the April 2 deadline.
The town budgets are being adversely affected by the sheer scale of these appeals for lower tax assessments. The League of Municipalities’ executive director, William Dressel, has admitted that problems are being caused for communities statewide.
The problems stem from these appeals reducing the amount of property tax revenue the towns would otherwise get, which has an impact on the quality of service that they provide. So it looks as though either a higher tax rate or cuts to those services will be introduced.
One method of responding to the surge in appeals has been for towns to perform their own reassessments to ensure that valuations are in step with the market, giving homeowners little leeway in disputing assessments. After all, they can dispute a property assessment, but not a tax bill. Hackensack based lawyer Martin Sharit puts it bluntly that thinking you pay too much in tax is not sufficient grounds to appeal, as “we all pay too much in taxes.”
While regional house prices have dipped twenty percent since the home price run-up this will not make your tax appeal a certainty. After all, towns change values with a ratio that takes into account the change in house price due to the economy after a revaluation. You can divide your assessed figure by the ratio to see what your real home value is, and find the ratio itself at state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/lpt/lptvalue.shtml.
For instance, Teaneck’s ratio is 104 percent, which would mean that a property with an assessed value of $350,000 is now actually valued at $336,500. It is clear that the town is aware that the assessment is much higher than the real value of the property.
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