Yudel Shain: Why Most Tax Appeals Do Not Succeed


rabbi-yehudah-shainJoseph Picard of The Asbury Park Press reportsThinking about appealing your property tax assessment? First, experts and tax officers say, study or consult on the rules, think it through again, then decide what to do.

Mike and Betty Palermo of Webb Avenue in the Ocean Grove section of Neptune considered appealing their assessment early in 2004. Neptune had just gone through its first revaluation in 14 years, and the Palermos’ residence skyrocketed in taxable value from $135,800 to $448,000, or 330 percent, with their property taxes soaring accordingly.

“We hired a private assessor, for about $100, to come down and study our property, and to let us know how fair or unfair the township’s assessment was,” said Mike Palermo, 81. “He said if we sold the house, we would get at least what the township assessed it at. He said an appeal, therefore, would be disastrous. The tax increase is tough, but we don’t want to move. We did not appeal. We bit the bullet.”

Yehuda Shain, a Lakewood real estate broker, is also a state-certified tax assessor. He said he has assisted hundreds of people in deciding whether they should appeal.

“Most people who appeal do not succeed because they did not have the grounds to appeal,” Shain said. “Some people think that because their taxes are high, and they can not afford to pay, that they can appeal to the tax board. But such an argument carries no weight at all.”

Tax officials in Monmouth and Ocean counties agree that many people do not understand what an assessment appeal involves, and often appeal when, if they had done some preliminary research, they would not have wasted their time and money.

“Many appeals are filed that have no chance of succeeding, and the filing fee is lost,” said Matthew Clark, tax administrator for Monmouth County.

Filing fees, based on the value of the house, range from $5 to $150, officials said.

“It’s important for people to understand how the laws work,” said Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Tax Board. “There is information available from the county’s tax board office and on its Web site that can assist in this process and allow residents to make an informed decision.”

Although property taxes are paid to a municipality, appeals are handled at the county level. An appeal is based solely on the market value of the property. It is incumbent upon the person appealing the assessment to prove the true market value to the county tax board. This is done by presenting evidence to the board. The most common evidence includes a property appraisal by a state-licensed appraiser and a list of the sale prices of comparable properties in the neighborhood during the past several months.

Even being able to show that several comparable properties sold for less than the assessment in question does not guarantee success.

“The tax board has a 15 percent leeway in determining whether to lower the assessment,” Shain explained.

When, after hearing the evidence, the tax board determines the true market value of a property, it then applies a state regulation known as Chapter 123. This means, as Shain said, that if the true market value is within 15 percent of the assessment, the assessment stands. Only when true market value is more than 15 percent lower than the assessment will the assessment be reduced.

In other words, you can prove that the market value of your house is lower than the assessed value and still not win the appeal, officials said.

But some appeals, like that made by Jeanne DiLemmo of Long Branch, succeed.

DiLemmo, about five years ago, bought a house on Dale Street, unaware that the property had a severe and unfixable flooding problem. When her property was subsequently reassessed and the value rose by $100,000, DiLemmo appealed.

“I did not consult with any expert. I did not get advice,” DiLemmo said. “I was just sick and tired of being victimized. First, I’m sold a house with no disclosure about the flood condition. Then my taxes are raised. It was too much. It was time to fight back.”

DiLemmo contacted the tax office, learned the process and gathered her evidence, which included newspaper articles about the house’s condition. She appeared before the tax board and presented her case. The board agreed she’d been unfairly treated and reversed the assessment.

“You can sometimes fight city hall and win,” she said.

Slightly more than half of those appealing their assessments in Monmouth and Ocean counties last year managed to lower them. Most of these successes were the result of a settlement reached between the petitioner and the particular municipality, negating the need for a hearing before the county tax board.

In 2005, in Monmouth County, there were 744 appeals: 212 were settled without a hearing; another 131 appeals that came before the board succeeded. In Ocean County, of the 478 appeals filed in 2005, 220 were settled, and 72 were successful in obtaining reductions from the board.

There is another reason why some residents appeal their assessments, Clark said.

“Every year, we see a few people appeal their assessments when they clearly know they have no chance of a reduction,” he said. “They pay their fee so they can have their time before the tax board to complain about their taxes. It doesn’t change things, but they get to sound off.”

{APP/Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. The first & foremost is everyone should have their property valued correctly, so I don’t pay your taxes & you don’t pay my share of taxes. Now the fact that the budget spigot is left open to blead us all is due to the fact that everone is passive. When was the last time you got up at a Township meeting to complain? Complain about what? run the township like a bisiness that’s struggling financially. Negoiate with the Unions even on past agreed contracts “you heard me right”, some heavy lay-offs are in order, etc.

    With the new assessments that were mailed out in Lakewood last week, you should make an appointment & discuss “how did they arrive at the value?” Is it fair value?

    The valuer & value of your property has nothing to do with the spending pattern of the Township.

    Vote your pocketbook, not what the klal-shvitzers tell you to vote. Their interests, are their interests-NOT YOURS!

  2. I appealed and won, in Lakewood. I bought my house for 340K in an arms-length transaction and it was assesed for approx 407K. I paid $25 for the application fee, got some comps from a local RE broker, and several months later had a court date where the township settled and reduced my assesed value to my purchase price.

    Just remember, you are not appealing the tax amount; you are appealing the assesment of the value which the tax percentage will be based on.

  3. In the very early nineteen ninety’s, I went with no professional help to an appeal,which I filed myself, and I won. This was in Allentown,PA.