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Congratulations to New York and New Jersey. According to the Washington, DC-based independent tax policy research organization, the Tax Foundation, these two states are home to some of the most expensive counties in the country regarding paid property taxes. As of 2019, residents of Bergen, Essex, and Union Counties in New Jersey and Nassau, Rockland, and Westchester counties in New York have bills over $10,000 for property taxes.

If you own a home in one of these counties, it’s likely that at some point in your residence, you’ve received a mailer from a firm promising to lower your property taxes, often with no fee upfront. If you haven’t ever grieved your taxes, this article answers some of the more common questions asked about the process of property tax grievance.

How are my property taxes calculated?

Property taxes are based on the assessed value of your home minus any exemptions you may have, such as a school tax relief (STAR), senior, or veteran exemption. Your tax share is then a percentage of the total tax levy for your various taxable jurisdictions (county, village, school district, etc.). Those taxable amounts are added up, which results in the amount you see on your property tax bill.

How do I challenge the amount of taxes I pay?

You can find determine the market value of your property and whether it is assessed fairly by using the sales comparable method—determining value by comparing the subject property to other recently sold properties with similar characteristics. If you find that your market value is less than your assessed value, you might be able to make a case for lowering your assessment.

If the firms promising to lower my taxes charge no up-front fee, how do they get paid?

Traditionally, the most common way these firms get paid is by charging you a percentage of your tax savings for the filing year they are challenging on your behalf. It’s a fair system; if they can’t lower your taxes, they don’t get paid. Likewise, it’s in their best interests to do their best to lower your taxes as much as possible to maximize their fees.

Do I have to use one of these firms to challenge my assessment?

No, you can file your own property tax grievance without using a professional firm. However, hiring a professional to lower your taxes and maximize savings is not a bad idea. You enjoy cumulative savings year after year, but you pay the firm a fee for the first year’s savings only.

How Does ATTOM Help?

Many of these companies use ATTOM’s real estate data to conduct their due diligence and accurately assess a property’s taxes. With accurate data, it’s easier to conduct legal challenges to lower clients’ assessments. Individual’s too can use ATTOM’s data and ATTOM AVM (automated valuation model) to check their tax assessment.

Still, for residents of New York and New Jersey, even with a new assessment, they may still have to pay some of the highest taxes in the United States of America, but hopefully no more than their fair share.

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