Spring into Tax Savings

Spring has sprung and so has tax grievance season in Westchester.  That’s when homeowners come out of the woodwork with dreams of reducing their property taxes.  While the filing deadline has passed for the villages, the deadline for the towns and most cities in Westchester is just a few short months away on June 16, 2015.

Westchester Tax Grievance

Yet, the landscape is different this year and commonplace reductions will not be as easily won as in past years.  The reason is that many municipalities undertook market re-assessment projects in recent years:  Mamaroneck in 2013; Scarsdale in 2014; and Ossining this year for the first time in 43 years.  The revaluations have resulted in a seismic shift with lower tax bills for some and shockingly higher assessments for others.  The reality is that other than the rare exception, your property’s assessed value is now closer to the realized market value if your town has just undergone the reassessment process.

The process is easy and costs minimal compared to the savings which are often realized.  To file at the local level costs nothing.  Tax grievance attorneys generally charge a contingency fee, meaning that you pay nothing if your taxes are not reduced.  The only initial expense is the appraisal which must be done, generally less than $600 depending on your location.

Many homeowners try to employ self-help in filing the grievance application, but it’s worth retaining an attorney from the start.  If your application is denied then the tax grievance attorney will file a court appeal on your behalf if he or she is already on board.

It is also important to keep in mind that most municipalities in Westchester base your taxes on the prior year’s assessment, so if your town’s grievance deadline is June 16th for the 2015 tax roll, any reduction will not be realized until your 2016 taxes.  Therefore, don’t delay because prospective savings are still a year away.

Your taxes will not increase simply because you file a grievance application and lower property taxes can be a great asset if trying to sell your house in Westchester or anywhere else in the New York market.

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It’s that seasonal time of year again to challenge your property taxes

Here is something to get rid of those winter blues – putting more money in your pocket.  For the past two years I have been filing Westchester tax grievance applications for clients with a 50-50 shot at winning anything at the local level.  However, with the deadline for many villages looming next month, the future is a bit brighter.

Photo: Graur Codrin / freedigitalphotos.net

2010 was the first year the municipalities realized the tax rolls were over-inflated and began granting a reduction in property taxes to those who filed tax grievance applications.  Not everyone received the full requested discount but many received close to it.

Filing a tax grievance application is a relatively simple process and is worth the small appraisal fee for most homeowners.  Further, while many homeowners try to do self-help in filing the grievance application, it is also worth retaining an attorney to help you from the start.  The attorney’s fee is contingent on a reduction or refund received or judgment granted in court, if you must appeal, so there is no upfront cost to you except maybe filing fees.

It is also important to keep in mind that most municipalities in Westchester base your taxes on the prior year’s assessment, so if your village’s grievance deadline is mid-February 2011 for the 2011 tax roll, any reduction will not be realized until your 2012 taxes.  Therefore, don’t delay because prospective savings are still a year away.  Municipal summaries are available online or by calling your local assessor’s office for important filing deadlines and assessment figures.

An Open Letter to New York’s Governor Elect Andrew Cuomo

Dear Andrew,

Augurisimo! Well done, even though your victory was no surprise to anyone who has watched you over the last 20+ years.

You and I go way back…..all the way to Westhab in the 80s when Marlene Aig would cover you for the AP and I would do the same for 1010 WINS.  We knew; we knew then that you would succeed your Dad, eventually.  All anyone had to do was see your dedication to helping the homeless and the ease with which you handled people and the many media queries which ensued.

In fact, back in 1993 when you became Assistant Secretary of HUD, I told your Dad it was just a matter of time.  I told you the same thing at one point.  You didn’t call – he didn’t give you my resumé but that’s OK.  You worked hard and you made it.  So, now that you’re there you have to show the world what you can do.

You don’t have an easy road to hoe.  New York State is a mess thanks to the Democrats who came before you and the nation’s financial woes.  This didn’t happen overnight nor will it be fixed overnight.  Don’t run in like a rock star  into the Governor’s Mansion.  You’ve been there before so you know how the game is played.  All I ask is that you dedicate your new position to restoring the faith I used to have  as a Democrat because no one can afford to live here anymore.

Here’s my punch list; please see what you can do:

– Stimulate business with job growth and growth incentives.  Small businesses and solo practitioners have all but died off.

– Cut the property taxes in this state.  Try consolidating government.  Property is over-assessed and muncipalitites are now trying to deal with SCAR challenges that leave them scrambling.  They’ve been used to a gravy-laden budgets and don’t know how to deal with the a reduction in their tax roll.  Make this a priority or you won’t have any constituents to shepherd.  I mean if Montana’s legislature can meet every other year, why do we need such a bulky government, from Albany down to Dobbs Ferry?

– End the insurance monopoly, from health insurance to general liability and professional malpractice insurance.  No one can afford it and the only “healthy” bottom line is that of the insurance companies.  Come on!   Allstate’s third-quarter earnings this year jumped 50%, while I have to decide between buying the crappy health plan or none at all.  Some choice.

– Take control of the MTA.  It’s off the rails.  It started taxing businesses which don’t do business in NYC and still can’t manage to operate without exorbitant fare hikes.  Sorry, but WTF is that about?

You’ve aligned your stars for greatness and your political career can be a gallactic success.  If you can make New York  State THE place to live again – the White House is in your future and we know that!  I am telling you, take care of these things efficiently and you will win legions of new fans.  If you need help, just call, I’m only down the road.

Now get to work,

In bocca al lupo,

Lisa Fantino