FILING REQUIREMENTS FOR 2010 TAX APPEALS

N.J.S.A. 54:3-21 is the jurisdictional statute for tax appeals. It was recently amended by L. 2009, c.251, effective January 16, 2010. This amendment is noteworthy as it raises the floor for filing direct real property assessment challenges in the Tax Court. Previously, a complaint could not be filed in the Tax Court and the County Board of Taxation by passed if the assessed value exceeded $750,000.   As of January 16, 2010, the assessed value for a property must exceed $1 million to trigger the court’s original jurisdiction.    R. 8:3-5 of New Jersey’s Rules of Court were changed as of February 9th to conform.

Taxpayers are not remediless if the property’s assessment is $1 million or less. In that case, a petition, not a complaint, can be filed with the County Board of Taxation of the county in which the property is located. The procedural requirements for County Boards differ from board to board as well as with the procedural requirements of the Tax Court. However, in either forum, a taxpayer must comply with several challenges including: (1) the burden of proof on value, (2) Chapter 91, and (3) Chapter 123. Failure to comply with any of these will result in dismissal of the taxpayer’s petition or complaint, as the case may be.

 

The specifics of N.J.S.A. 54:3-21 (the “Statute”) remain the same:

 

  • A petition or a complaint must be filed on or before April 1st of the year of assessment or, on or before May 1st, if the taxing district undertook a municipal-wide revaluation or a municipal-wide reassessment.
  • The taxing district (the assessor) is required to bulk mail to each property owner a notification of the assessment and file a certification with the County Board of Taxation advising of the date the bulk mailing was completed.
  • Appeals are governed by the State Uniform Tax Procedure Law. An appeal to the Tax Court establishes jurisdiction over the entire matter with the court.
  • A cross-petition of appeal or a counterclaim can be filed within 20 days from the date of service of a petition or a complaint by the other party.

 

 

 

 

It is well established that this Statute is jurisdictional and therefore filing deadlines cannot be waived. An untimely filing will result in a dismissal of an appeal no matter how meritorious. Finally, the appeal process established by this Statute does not apply to appeals of an assessment or an exemption based on a financial agreement controlled by the Long Term Tax Exemption Law.

 

If you have any further questions, please feel free to consult Jeffrey M. Hall at (609) 895-6755 or jhall@foxrothschild.com.

Tax Appeals - Chapter 91 dismissal sanctions are not an "excessive fine" prohibited by the United States and New Jersey Constitutions

decision (.PDF) today from the New Jersey Appellate Division cemented the long-standing rule of tax appeal law that the failure to timely respond to a municipal tax assessor's request for income and expense information will likely prevent a taxpayer from seeking a reduction of its property assessment.  

Known as a Chapter 91 request, a taxpayer has a mere forty-five days to respond to a tax assessor's request for information (which must be made by certified mail in accordance with the requirements of N.J.S.A. 54:4-34).  Otherwise, the taxpayer risks a motion to dismiss a subsequent year's compliant for failure to timely respond to the Chapter 91 request. To promote timely compliance, the statute imposes an appeal-dismissal sanction upon taxpayers which municipalities are becoming increasing adept at wielding and weeding out the number of tax appeals, which were expected to rise this year. 

In the instant case, the plaintiff taxpayer argued that the fair market value of the subject property was approximately $20,180,000, as opposed to the tax assessment's imputed a fair market value of $29,665,700.   In dollars and cents, this difference of opinion amounted to approximately $192,551.71 of tax dollars in dispute. 

Because the taxpayer here failed to timely file its Chapter 91 response, its Complaint was dismissed by the Tax Court on motion from the municipality.  The Appellate Division was not persuaded by the taxpayer's argument on appeal that the sanction of paying the imposed taxes is an "excessive fine" prohibited by the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, § 1, ¶ 12 of the New Jersey Constitution.  According to the Appellate Division, the application of N.J.S.A. 54:4-34 did not impose any additional tax upon plaintiff for its failure to comply.

 

 

If you take away anything from this post, remember this.  If you are the owner of an income-producing property, be on the lookout for a Chapter 91 request this summer.  While serving a request is at the tax assessor's discretion, the receiving taxpayer is required to repond, even if the property is "owner-occupied".  The tax assessor will direct the request to the addressee on record.  Forty-five days may sound like a long time, but that is a little over six weeks, and time flies in the summertime.  And if your management office is located outside of New Jersey, by the time the request is routed to the decision-maker, the clock is already ticking.