Challenging Your Real Estate Taxes In Today's Challenging Environment

Tax certiorari. Even the name remains obscure in Latin, perhaps in an effort to make the entire process seem difficult and hard to manage for the average real estate owner. For co-op and condo boards, however, the tax certiorari proceeding is a real opportunity to reduce real estate taxes for their buildings and for their shareholders. The real estate tax rate in New York has gone up 18.5 percent since last year, making it more important than ever to exercise your building's right to lodge a protest.

By encouraging all of the buildings under our management to protest their assessed values each and every year, conscientious tax attorneys can save hundreds of thousands of dollars for their clients. Filing an annual protest is common, and because tax certiorari attorneys are typically paid on a pro rata share of savings, there is very little downside to making this a yearly event. According to the 2002 Annual Report of the New York City Tax Commission, there were "42,797 applications covering more than 131,000 separately assessed tax lots, encompassing $72 billion, or 70 percent of the 2002 taxable assessments citywide (net of exemptions).

"This corresponds roughly to $8 billion of the city's anticipated 2002-2003 real estate tax levy, 35 percent of the city's 2002-2003 overall tax revenue and about 18 percent of the city's entire 2002-2003 expense budget," says the commission's report.

You can see that we are talking about real numbers here, and that the city will fight to keep these tax dollars flowing into their coffers. However, what many aren't aware of is that, according to the commission's report, "the [Commission] took remedial actions in 2002 which, in the aggregate, offered the equivalent of an estimated $62 million in actual relief to aggrieved taxpayers."

A Brief Overview of the Process

To be sure that your building isn't overlooked in this pile of applications, or miss the opportunity to file for an assessment reduction, it's important to understand the basic operation of the process and be aware of filing deadlines. According to Richard Steinberg of the Manhattan law firm of Brandt, Steinberg & Lewis, the city's Department of Finance publishes the assessments on January 15th of each year. Buildings have until March to file a protest with the Tax Commission.

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9 Comments

  • can you recommend a firm which specializes in apealing real estate taxes. My company in in Somerset New Jersey.
  • That is a great story, but what with individual owners who get taken by the assessor and officer who hears the case. My feel is they already had a decision made even before I presented my case. I felt my case was really well defined with lots of data to back it up, and all they could do is use 1 small bit of data as excuse not to lower my taxes. Also the fact that the town rep. used the marketing ad from the sale of the house as an excuse 'how great this property is'. I was stunned, shocked and have no idea what the next step is after this 'Tax certiorari' hearing... Any thoughts are appreciated. Ome Willem, Conesus, NY
  • I am an owner in a building that went condo 10 years ago. In 2008 our taxes were reduced by a firm that does this procedure.for the building. However, my individual real estate taxes are way out of line compared to other apts. of the same size , better location in the bldg. % of common interest, etc. How do I get my taxes reduced so they are in line with others in this building.
  • and have you calculated the textbooks not purchased, teachers released, programs cut, and schools closed because you advocte corporations tying up millions of dollars of tax funds hoping a few appeals will come through. Have you checked with your local school district and municipality how your tactics affect your services?
  • I manage 2 small (34 units each) residential buildings on the Upper East Side of NYC. In 6 years of hearings I received 1 refund this year on one building. Is that expected? Should I change to a smaller law firm that will fight my case more effectively?
  • I always believe in using smaller firms if possible, as they are cheaper and more likely to have the name attorneys handle your case themselves. Of course, I am biased in saying this, as I am a small firm partner, so take that with a grain of salt.
  • america is the new north korea good luck in the court system where all the players except you know each other
  • It would be great if the Council could create a "Best of Tax certiorari of the Year" Report. NY Magazine produces a Best of Doctors in NYC (of different specialtyies) so such'best of' studies are done.
  • I have been told that is illegal in NYC for tax ceriorari attorneys to represent buildings of under 10 units. Is that correct?