All homeowners should know how to file a tax grievance because with a market turn like we've just experienced it's important to know if/when you are being over-assessed. If you think you might be paying too much in property taxes, a grievance can be filed and your case reviewed by a local municipality. A successful grievance can lower your property taxes and is not as complicated as you may think. But there is a deadline; so without further ado here's a quick reference guide from Taft Street Realty on how, when, (and why!) to file a tax grievance.
When To File A Grievance
Ulster County Property taxes are based on the value of your home. Your local assessor determines the market value of your home on behalf of the municipal government; and does so in a manner not unlike a comparative sales analysis done by a real estate agent. The assessor then factors in the tax rate, and after a few calculations, your property taxes are born. Therefore, the assessor's market value of your home is very important, so make sure it's correct! Every year usually around the beginning of May, the assessor will publish what's known as an "Assessment Roll" which will state the assessed value of every home in the municipality. You can find "the roll" at your local assessor's office or even online in some cases. If you feel that the value that your assessor has on the roll is higher than the actual value of your home, you'll want to dispute the assessed value, which leads us to the tax grievance...
How to File a Tax Grievance
In the simplest terms, when you file a tax grievance you need to prove that the market value of your home is lower than the amount assessed by your municipal government (which is known as an "Unequal Assessment"). It is a relatively simple process, requiring as little as two forms, and can be filed with or without an attorney (though we recommend using an attorney and we'll tell you why). The first form is the RP-524 which is required by New York State. The second form is called the "Letter of Support", which is basically a business letter written by you briefly explaining why the assessment on the "roll" is unequal. This letter of support is where you can include any associated documentation you'd like such as past sale market research, and/or private assessments, etc. Here's a tip: When you write your letter of support be sure to include a specific amount (exact number) that you'd like to have your assessed value lowered to, and always ask for as much as legally possible. The assessor's office must have received your tax grievance by "Grievance Day", which in Ulster County, NY is May 22nd, 2012. After which a review will be scheduled to consider your grievance. Note: You are not required to attend your review, but you are certainly entitled to if you'd like.
Why An Attorney Can Help
Though you don't need to work with an attorney to file a tax grievance, Taft Street Realty recommends it for a few reasons. Statistically, attorneys have a better track record at winning grievances than those who work without one. An Ulster County attorney will do all of the legwork for you, including the market research to be used in your grievance. And an attorney may not be as expensive as you think. In fact, many attorneys only require payment if you win your grievance, and it is usually a percentage of the taxes saved in your 1st year.
A No-Lose / Can't Hurt Situation
Filing a tax grievance is basically a no-lose (can't hurt!) situation as it will at least force the local town to review your property. So if you think there is any chance you could win a grievance, we here at Taft Street Realty recommend that you give it a try!