Jersey City Property Tax Appeals: A Civic Overview

In December 2017 I shared how to determine if your new assessment is fair or not. In this post I'm adding new information, including a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), about the appeals process.

Property tax appeals in Jersey City are due June 18th, 2018. This means: you must file your appeal by June 18th.  The process of appealing - including appearing before the County Tax Board to make your case for lowering your assessment - will follow in the weeks after June 18th.

A tax appeal is when you petition the County Tax Board to lower your tax assessed value. By lowering your assessed value, you can in turn lower the tax expense the city will expect you to pay in the coming year.

Hudson County has a Tax Appeal Filing Packet online here that explains the entire process. It is a dense document, but exhaustive and inclusive of what you need to know to appeal your taxes. It does contains a lot of tax jargon, so I've also created my own frequently asked questions (FAQs) about tax appeals and the appeals process.

My FAQ is based on:

  1. Research, analysis, and written posts available at JerseyCityRevaluation.org, which is part of CivicParent.org.
  2. My advocacy with Jersey City Together. In 2017 I was part of a JC Together team that helped residents understand the process of appealing. We hosted workshops to help educate residents understand if they were over-taxed or not, and about the appeals process in general. I also attended tax appeal hearings to witness the process first hand (and as a show of support for residents who were appealing). It was a learning experience for me which I'm happy to share about now, in the hopes it helps more people avoid unfair over-taxation in Jersey City.  The 2017 Jersey City Together tax appeal campaign helped over 30 residents save over $40,000 in annual tax expense.

This FAQ is *not* tax or accounting advice and should not be construed as such. CivicParent is a volunteer endeavor on my part and is intended for general information purposes only. If you need professional assistance of a financial or legal nature, it is important that you engage a licensed professional to assist you. Such a professional should be clear, and put in writing, the terms about how he/she can help you including specific details around scope and terms, including amount, of payment. Please read my disclaimer for more information.

CivicParent Frequently Asked Questions

What is a property tax appeal?
A tax appeal is when you try to LOWER the assessed value of your home. "Assessed Value" is the value the city thinks your property is worth; it's viewable on your tax record. Here's why assessed value is so important: it is used to compute your tax expense: If your Assessed Value is TOO HIGH, then you'll end up paying MORE THAN YOUR FAIR SHARE in property taxes.  That is unjust and unfair. Please see this link for more information about understanding if your assessed value is fair or not.  And I've created the graphic below to help explain how to read your tax postcard. Also, a quick note: assessed values are part of the tax records maintained in the city's tax office. But...you must apply to the county to have your assessed value changed (which is why when you appeal your property taxes, you must go to the County Tax Board).  
Why should I consider appealing?
You should consider appealing if the assessed value of your home is HIGHER THAN the market value* of your home. So...let's say the city has assessed your property at $300,000, but you think it's only worth $250,000, i.e. your home's market value is $250,000.  In this scenario, the city is potentially "over-assessing" you by $50,000.  A property tax appeal is the process of LOWERING the city's $300,000 assessed value to a number closer to the $250,000 range. I have a page on my Revaluation site here that breaks this down in detail if you'd like to learn more. * Note: market value is measured as as of October 1, 2017. October 1st is a cutoff date for tax assessment purposes.
How do I figure out the market value of my property?
Hudson County's 2017 property tax appeal form provides detail about how to determine market value. To quickly summarize, there are both fee-based and non-fee-based options to determine your market value.
  • Fee-Based. You can pay a licensed appraiser to inspect your property and estimate your market value. This consumer brief from the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs explains more about licensed appraisers.  This is arguably the most provable determination of your market value if you had to defend market value for appeal purposes.
  • Non-Fee-Based.  You can also determine your market value for free, which may require consulting with a  realtor and/or some additional learning and advocacy on your part.  A licensed realtor can help you understand what your home's value is and what is driving the price point.  A key set of data the realtor will use: comparable sales(something the appraiser also typically uses). You can also look up comparable sales, on your own, in the NJ Assessments Records database.  I downloaded Jersey City 2017 Class "2" (1-4 family) sales from this database and mapped them here to illustrate the type of information that is available in this database.  An important point to note: this is data about home sales, but it's tracked by the state for tax purposes only...so it lacks more nuanced information your realtor might have access to, like number of bedrooms and bathrooms, garage and parking details, and qualification around recent upgrades.
One caveat, for both realtors and residents in general to understand: to be "comparable" for property tax appeal purposes, a sale comparison must be:
  • Usable.  A "usable sale" is a tax term that is part of the tax record. Generally speaking, "usable" sales are 3rd party sales where the price point is a true proxy of market value. State law defines a specific list of "non-usable sale" types which you can read about here.
  • Recent. To qualify as a recent sale for 2018 property tax appeal purposes, the sale must have occurred on or before Oct 1, 2017.
The County Tax Board can clarify questions about usable vs. non-usable sales. Also, Appraisal Systems (the company doing Jersey City's Revaluation) explains the use of comparable sales starting on slide 23 of their Revaluation presentation.
When is the deadline to appeal my property tax assessment in Jersey City?
June 18th. Typically, the deadline for property tax appeals is April 1st. But because this is a year in which Jersey City underwent a citywide revaluation, the deadline for appealing property tax assessments was extended to June 18th. The Hudson County Tax Board makes note of this deadline extension on its website here.
Can I appeal online?
Yes. The Hudson County Tax Board has a website here where you can appeal your assessment online.
Can I appeal on paper?
Yes. Refer to this instruction guide provided by Hudson County for how to appeal via paper.
Could my assessment be INCREASED on appeal?
Yes. If your assessment is currently LOWER than your market value, then you are currently UNDER-assessed.  The County Tax Board can correct under-assessed properties by increasing the values to be on par, or equal to, market value.  This is why it's important to understand your market value, so that you understand the pros and cons of approaching the County Tax Board about changing your assessed value.

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Any other notes or context you'd like to add.

What is Property Revaluation?

An overview of assessed vs. market values and why they matter in context of revaluation.

The WHO and WHEN of Revaluation

An overview of key information and contacts to tune into as the citywide revaluation unfolds.

Estimating Change in Tax Expense

A short example illustrates the key components of property tax math.

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