The Law Office of Michael D. Mirne, L.L.C. Announces Information for New Jersey Taxpayers: Check Your Property Record Card

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Mistakes on your property record card can affect how much you pay for your real estate taxes. Fixing these mistakes is easy and may avoid the need for you to file a tax appeal.

Michael Mirne

Finding mistakes on your property record card may be as simple as taking a trip to your municipal assessor’s office and asking to see the card.

For the last several years, the Law Office of Michael D. Mirne, L.L.C. has been providing New Jersey’s taxpayers with information about real estate tax assessments and the tax appeal process. In this month’s article, however, we will look at some steps that taxpayers can possibly take to avoid the need to file a tax appeal.

For most taxpayers, winning a tax appeal is a great feeling. It is the culmination of several weeks of researching and gathering data, to the final moment when the taxpayer gets to tell the commissioner why his or her property is not worth nearly as much as it is assessed for. We enjoy helping taxpayers with their tax appeals more than any other area of law we practice. However, the unfortunate fact is that once a tax appeal becomes necessary to file, the taxpayer has probably already lost some money that cannot be recovered.

The taxpayer cannot appeal the previous year’s assessment, which may have also been too high. The taxpayer can only appeal the present year’s assessment, and may often settle at a compromised assessment, knowing that if the matter required were presented to the Tax Board Commissioners for a trial, the taxpayer would bear the burden of proof, which is sometimes onerous when there simply are not a lot of comparable sales. Additionally, in some towns, where property values are equalized at a percentage of true value, the town is also given a 15% margin of error before the taxpayer can even win the appeal. (We discussed this issue in more detail in a previous article.)

While we receive reductions in assessments in the majority of the tax appeals we file, and significant reductions in assessments in many of our tax appeals, there still seems to be something inherently unfair to a system that forces taxpayers to hire an attorney (and possibly an appraiser, too) to fight the municipality just to get an assessment that is reflective of the property’s true value. The question then becomes “why did the municipality over-assess your property?” In most cases, the over-assessment is just the result of a lot of data, which has not been properly analyzed. Since it would be too expensive for the municipality to hire an appraiser to separately analyze each property, a mathematical model is created to predict the values of each property in a town. It is not intentional overestimation by the tax assessor, but mass valuation techniques are not designed to produce accurate results in 100% of the cases.

In some cases, however, the mistake in assessment is because the assessor does not have the correct information about your property. Tax assessors will generally maintain this information about your property on a page called the “Property Record Card.” While there is no statute in New Jersey requiring assessors to maintain such records, the Courts in New Jersey have treated these records as public information, and accordingly, they should be available for inspection and duplication, at the request of any person. Often, during the course of preparation for tax appeal hearings, and occasionally during our tax appeal hearings, we learn that the information contained in the property record card is wrong, and may have affected the assessment of the property for several prior years. These are years that the taxpayer will not be compensated for.

Perhaps the assessor has the house measured incorrectly, or is taxing the house for a finished basement that does not exist. There can be mistakes about land calculations, room count or conditions of the dwelling. There are dozens of different types of errors that may exist on your property record card. The trouble is that most taxpayers will never even look to see if these errors exist.

Finding mistakes on your property record card may be as simple as taking a trip to your municipal assessor’s office and asking to see the card. If you think that there may be some errors, you can ask the assessor to re-inspect your house to ensure that the errors are corrected. If the corrections are done early enough, the assessment of the property may be lowered without the need for the taxpayer to file an appeal. However, once the tax assessor’s records are finalized for the year (in November for Monmouth County Properties and in January for other counties), the assessment cannot be altered unless a tax appeal is filed.

For more information about Property Record Cards, or any other topic regarding tax appeals, please feel free to contact the Law Office of Michael D. Mirne, L.L.C.

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Michael Mirne
Law Office of Michael D. Mirne, L.L.C.
+1 (732) 859-8489
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