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."
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.