Frequently Asked Questions:

Who is responsible for assessments and taxes?
Your property assessment is determined by a tax assessor, who is an elected or appointed local official. Property taxes, on the other hand, are established by your local taxing jurisdiction, which may be a school district, town, county or other entity. The property tax reduction process targets your assessment, which may remain constant for a significant period of time, while tax rates are subject to more frequent fluctuation.

What is the difference between market value and assessed value?
Market value is the selling price that a piece of property could be expected to demand “under normal conditions.” The “assessed value” is determined by a local tax assessor for purposes of establishing the amount of property tax to be paid by the owner.

What is the deadline for filing a property tax grievance?
Deadlines vary by jurisdiction, but for most towns and cities in the Capital Region, the deadline for filing a property tax grievance is grievance day, May 28th. It is important to note however that building a property tax grievance case is a complex process, and many cases take weeks to prepare. In order to have the best case possible it is generally best to begin the filing process at least one month prior to the deadline.

If I challenge my assessment, can my assessment be increased?
No. The only authority that the Board of Assessment Review (BAR) and the Small Claims Assessment Hearing Officer (SCAR) have is to review the evidence presented, and if warranted, lower your assessment. They have no authority to increase your assessment.

Why should I challenge my assessment?
If you feel that your property is worth less than the municipality has it assessed for, you should challenge your assessment. Your assessment should be fair, meaning that it should be correct, and reflective of what your property is worth. If it’s higher than it’s worth that is unfair to you and you would be paying more than your fair share of the tax burden for the community.

My neighbor, whose house is similar to my house, pays lower property taxes than I do. Does this mean my taxes can be lowered too?
It depends. Your neighbor may be under-assessed, or he may have exemptions that you do not have, such as a veteran’s exemption, senior star exemption just to name a few.

Is there any reason not to challenge my assessment?
Generally no. State Law requires that all properties be assessed fairly. If you believe that your home is over-assessed, you have the legal right to challenge your assessment. Since your assessment can not be raised in the year that you challenge your assessment, you have nothing to lose.

What if I have made improvements to my home without town approval?
We would not recommend challenging your assessment. Assessors sometime request an inspection or appraisal of your home as part of the grievance process. While unapproved improvements to your home will not affect your home’s assessed value in the year that you challenge your assessment, those improvements, if brought to the assessor’s attention, could result in the reassessment of your home in the following tax year to factor in the added value of those improvements.

What kind of evidence do I need to establish the market value of my home?
The best form of evidence is a real estate appraisal prepared by a certified real estate appraiser. An appraisal is prepared by a non-biased professional who is in the business of valuing real estate. In many cases we may recommend that you have an appraisal of your home done to support the opinion of market value.

Can I go to the realtor who sold me my house, or another local realtor to give me a market analysis, or just comparable sales?
You can, but that evidence is of lesser value. While the assessment offices, boards of assessment review and the small claims hearing officers will consider the information provided by a realtor, it’s generally not considered as reliable or thorough as the evidence provided by a certified real estate appraiser. Also, without professional representation, homeowners are often not as successful presenting that evidence because they do not have the knowledge base or expertise to prepare their case for review.

If I had a recent appraisal when I bought my house, or refinanced, can I use that appraisal to challenge my assessment?
Maybe. To be successful, any appraisal needs to establish the market value of the subject property based on the valuation date set by the taxing jurisdiction. If you have an appraisal with a valuation date in 2010, perhaps when you bought or refinanced your property, but you are challenging your assessment in 2012, that appraisal will be dated, and your chances of success are limited.

Can I file a grievance myself?
Yes. Some homeowners do fill out all of the paperwork, and go to the hearings themselves. We have found that many homeowners are uncomfortable and unsure about the process. They are not comfortable about presenting their case in front of the Town Board and are even more uncomfortable about presenting their case to a Hearing Officer at a Small Claims Assessment Proceeding.

Can I grieve my past assessments?
Grievance Day is for the current year only. You cannot get a reduction for previous years as part of the Grievance Day, or the SCAR hearings.

Will I have to go to hearings or court?
No. We do all the paperwork, filings, and preparation, and if necessary appear on your behalf before the Board of Review and SCAR proceedings.

What happens if my Grievance is denied on Grievance Day?
We will fill out and file all of the necessary paperwork that will be needed for the next step, which is a SCAR proceeding (Small Claims Assessment Review Hearing).

If I challenge my assessment, will it affect my STAR tax reduction, or my veteran’s exemption, or any other exemption that I have?
No, they will remain as they are.

Will my reduction be retroactive?
Reductions are not retroactive. The reduction will be reflected in your next tax bill and subsequent bills. However, if the reduction occurs after you have already paid next year’s taxes you will receive a rebate check from the town.

What if my grievance is turned down?
Your property assessment will remain unchanged. There are no penalties, and you can file again next year if you choose.

If have more questions, may I call you?
Absolutely. We are always available to answer questions and address concerns.