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Taxpayers Beware: New Jersey Sets Revaluation

"Over the past 18 months, the residential market has faced significant erosion and downward pricing pressure with the subprime mortgage meltdown reducing the value of most residential property. The increasing inventory of unsold housing units causes additional downward pressure."

By John E. Garippa , Esq. as published by Real Estate New Jersey, February 2008

At the start of a new year, it is vitally important for New Jersey taxpayers to understand the challenges they should expect regarding property tax assessments. For 2008, many taxing jurisdictions have completed municipal-wide revaluations. Under New Jersey law, in a revaluation all tax parcels are valued at 100% of fair market value. The revaluation set for the 2008 tax year values all property as of October 1, 2007.

The difficulty in properly completing this assignment arises because it generally takes 18 months to properly complete an accurate revaluation. Most often, in the process of their work, revaluation firms consider comparable sales data and comparable income data derived during a 12-month period prior to the October 1 st date. They place greater reliance on that data which is closest to the October 1 st date.

Problems occur with revaluations when the data relied upon does not accurately measure the true value of property at October 1, 2007. In some markets, where a significant value change takes place, accuracy is almost impossible. This year that market will almost certainly be residential revaluations.

Over the past 18 months, the residential market has faced significant erosion and downward pricing pressure with the subprime mortgage meltdown reducing the value of most residential property. The increasing inventory of unsold housing units causes additional downward pressure. Revaluations commencing in 2008 are relying upon sales dating back to 2006, still a period of strength for the residential market. Taxpayers should carefully review their tax notices to determine if these revaluation notices accurately reflect the value of their property as of October 1, 2007.

In Commercial, a continuing challenge will be the fact that now most assessors routinely send Chapter 91 requests to taxpayers every year. These requests are designed to assist the assessor in determining current information about all income-producing property within a taxing jurisdiction. A taxpayer has 45 days to respond to this inquiry.

A failure to respond results in the automatic dismissal of any tax appeal filed thereafter for that tax year. Every year, hundreds of tax appeals are dismissed by the Tax Court because taxpayers failed to properly respond to these requests. While all taxpayers should be diligent in answering Chapter 91 requests, owners with larger portfolios need to stay particularly vigilant regarding these requests.

Taxpayers owning income-producing property also face challenges. High vacancies continue to be seen in many office markets, and the prospect of a slowdown in the economy puts pressure on many commercial values as well. Likewise, with the subprime mortgage market affecting other sectors, retail properties will face price pressure.

All of this makes valuing these properties difficult during 2008. Many of these properties will be worth less in the months after October 1, 2007, than they were prior to October 1. While that fact may not assist in reducing an assessment for 2008, it can be useful in negotiating assessments for 2009.

Key Points You Need to Know: Remember, it is not unusual during the tax appeal process for a tax assessor to request a dismissal for a prior year in order to reduce the following year's tax assessment. This allows the assessor to reduce an assessment for a subsequent year prior to collecting any taxes. The ploy puts the taxing jurisdiction in a position where they will not have to pay any property tax refunds.

The law in New Jersey presumes that assessments are correct. The burden falls on the taxpayer to demonstrate through probative evidence that the value placed by the assessor isn't correct. This makes it especially difficult for taxpayers when market value changes month to month and value must be proven as of October 1, 2007.

Once the tax rolls are closed and certified, a procedure that takes place by the end of the prior tax year, only by filing a valid tax appeal can an assessment be lawfully changed. The tax appeal process can be difficult and expensive, requiring significant proofs. Each taxpayer needs to be aware of the significant difficulties involved, and the fact that these problems are even more pressing when significant economic issues come into play.

Valuing real property in normal static times is difficult enough, valuing them during times of significant change can be almost impossible. Taxpayers face significant obstacles throughout all of 2008 as they try to obtain equitable tax assessments. Bringing together the combined knowledge and expertise of your entire tax team will benefit taxpayers in this tough environment.

GarippaJohn E. Garippa is senior partner of the law firm of Garippa, Lotz & Giannuario with offices in Montclair and Philadelphia. Mr. Garippa is also the president of the American Property Tax Counsel, the national affiliation of property tax attorneys, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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