What to Expect on the Day of Your Tax Appeal
For many taxpayers, an appearance before the County Tax Board is an intimidating and confusing process. In order to limit any misunderstandings and to ease tensions, Tax Boards will begin the morning or afternoon proceedings with a series of instructions, aimed at providing taxpayers with some basic procedures and rules that are specific to the hearings before the Tax Board. These instructions include information as to who may testify, and which evidence may be presented. In this article, we will discuss some additional information regarding what may occur on your hearing date.
The New Jersey State Legislature has afforded the individual County Tax Boards a great deal of autonomy, when it comes to scheduling tax appeal matters and determining an order in which the matters will proceed. In most cases, there will only be one or two towns scheduled to appear on a particular morning or afternoon, so that the municipal assessor and municipal attorney can minimize the number of appearances that they will need to make for their town. Within each town’s hearing schedule, some counties will hear their matters in order of Block and Lot. Some counties will group matters together based on the attorney for the taxpayer.
When each matter is reached, the Tax Board will request that the Taxpayer present his or her evidence first. This is not the time for the taxpayer to discuss the municipality’s evidence. Rather, this is only the time for the taxpayer to present evidence to prove the market value of the property. Market value should be based on the value as of October 1 of the pretax year. Ideally, we encourage the use of appraisals in Tax Appeal matters. However, for economic reasons, many taxpayers will use comparable sales to show the value of their property. In almost all cases, the taxpayer is not supposed to include any comparable sales from outside of the taxing district (i.e.; municipality) where the property is located.
Following the presentation of the taxpayer’s case, the attorney from the municipality will ask the taxpayer some questions. This is called “cross-examination.” But unlike the cross examination that occurs in a trial, the questions in a County Tax Appeal Hearing are generally brief and they are usually more pleasant than the questions we would expect in a trial in Court.
Immediately following the cross examination of the taxpayer, the municipality will generally present its evidence. However, since the taxpayer has the burden of proof, the municipality is not required to present any evidence. In some cases, in which the municipality does not believe the taxpayer has satisfied its burden of proof, or in cases in which the municipality has no good evidence to support its assessment, the municipality may choose to simply “rest” on its assessment. In the event that the municipality presents evidence, the taxpayer may then cross-examine the municipality’s witness about any of the evidence that is presented. This is the taxpayer’s opportunity to discuss any concerns about the validity of the municipality’s comparable sales.
Finally, once both sides have presented their cases, the commissioner(s) hearing the matter will thank the parties and inform them that the Tax Board will render a decision within four to six weeks. In the event that either party is dis-satisfied with the results of the County Tax Board hearing, that party reserves the right to file an appeal of the decision to the State of New Jersey Tax Court within 45 days of the Tax Board Judgment.