Raise your hand if you are feeling burdened (or maybe even crushed) by your property taxes… In Westchester County, almost every property owner (commercial or residential) is raising both of their hands, and their feet in answer to that question! Why? Well, because we are #1. Number one in the United States as far as having the highest property taxes. That’s right. In recent years, Westchester County has jumped to the top of the list as the highest taxed county in the nation.
Even so, not everyone pays the same amount in property taxes. How many of you have a neighbor down the street with a bigger house on a larger lot who pays less in property taxes than you do? Well, it’s time to get in on the secret of how to lower your property taxes… I am a local real estate attorney, in practice for almost 20 years, and I specialize in property tax grievances (a.k.a. tax certiorari). If you want to lower your property taxes, first you need to understand the lingo…
Secret # 1: Who? If you own a property, or are in contract to purchase a property, New York State law provides that you can grieve your property taxes. It used to be that only commercial property owners were permitted to grieve. But thanks in large part to my father, Robert Flower of Flower Property Tax Consultants, LLC in Bronxville (who has been in the industry for over 50 years), the law now permits home owners to grieve as well. As the property owner, you are the “Complainant” or “Petitioner”.
Secret # 2: What? You do not technically grieve your tax dollar amount per se, but instead you’re grieving your “Assessed Value” or “Assessment”. This is a dollar amount that is given to your property by your local assessor. It is not to be confused with your actual tax dollar amount. Look on your property tax bill: it’s usually called an “Assessed Value” or a “Taxable Value” or something of that sort. Your property tax dollar amount is calculated based off of the Assessed Value. So a property with an assessed value of $10,000 will have lower taxes than a property in the same municipality that has a valuation of $20,000. Generally speaking, the lower your Assessed Value, the lower your resulting taxes.
Secret # 3: When? This is a very important question. Each municipality has its own “Grievance Period” (i.e. the time frame within which you may submit your Complaint). You must be very careful to file your complaint within the applicable Grievance Period, otherwise you will lose the chance to grieve that year! Generally speaking, many (although not all) cities and towns in Westchester this year will allow complaints to be filed from June 1 – June 17. One day late and you’ll miss the boat, so be prompt.
Secret # 4: Why? Obviously you know you want to lower your property taxes so you can save money to use for other wants and needs. But there is another reason to grieve your taxes… increased property value! In today’s economy, owners are understandably finding it very difficult to sell a property, so they are trying many creative ways to attract buyers. One extremely clever way to do so is to offer a property with lower taxes. Think about it: if you are in the market to buy real estate, and you find one property with taxes of $15,000/year, and a similar property with taxes of $20,000/year, which property are you going to buy?
Secret #5: How? To file a grievance, technically called a “Complaint”, you must first determine if you have a case for reduction. Although you can technically grieve by yourself, we recommend hiring a professional to do it for you. Our firm will perform a free preliminary analysis to determine if you have a case. If you do, we grieve your taxes on a contingency basis – so you only pay us if and when we are successful.
You now have some basic lingo of the industry. The next step is to get your taxes lowered! As with anything in life, there are caveats and exceptions to all rules, so if you are serious about saving yourself some money and increasing your property’s value simultaneously, we strongly recommend you hire a seasoned professional to handle the process for you. You can find us at: CoxLawyers.com or call (914) 779-7762.