Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Property tax assessment game time

It's the same every year.  The mailings have already been coming for two months.  Tax Correction Agency, Zapmytax, Property Tax Reduction Consultants, Assessment Review Consultants LLC, Maidenbaum Property Tax Reduction,  these are all names of vendors who will file a tax reduction grievance for homeowners in Nassau County.  There may be others, who specialize in other neighborhoods, towns, or villages here.

Presumably these outfits have accountants or attorneys associated with them, or maybe not.  They boast that they will never charge a fee for their service if not successful.  NO REDUCTION = NO FEE is their commitment.  In fact, three of these five agencies have the same exact words on their promo literature.  Most list the streets on which homes in an area have successfully filed.  Since this is publicly available information there is no way to know if the agency represented these claims or if any agency did.

When house values began to decline here in 2001, filing was done without help.  The County does not make it easy, with assessed value being some derivative number that has nothing to do with the value of the property in question.  Everything the County provides is basically inexplicable.  Could the obfuscation be deliberate? The trick is simply taking their inexplicable number and looking online at filings for comparable homes in an area.  If a house and property is bigger or better than yours and their "tentative assessed value" is lower, point that out.  A form can be found online to file a grievance, when the system works which is sporadic.

Everything about this suggests collusion, a word of the year, between the tax reduction agencies and the political hacks who run the County.  BUT, if these hoops are jumped through, filing can work.  From 2002 through 2012  a reduction was achieved here every year.  As house prices were on the rise, a reduction was denied in 2013 and not tried for in recent years.

The filing is again being completed.  The ability to physically examine comparison houses is limited now, so online information only will be used.  As before, the application will point out that there has been not significant renovation to this house. NOT EVEN MARBLE COUNTERTOPS.

Here's the deal with these tax reduction agencies.  Their fee is, depending on the firm, 40% to 50% of the reduction achieved in the first year plus miscellaneous expenses.  The first year the reduction is applicable in the 2019-2020 fiscal year for the county.  The 40% plus fee is due 60 days after notice of success.  SO THE FEE WHICH COULD BE SUBSTANTIAL WOULD BE DUE IN MID-2018 BUT THERE WOULD BE NO BENEFIT UNTIL A YEAR AND A HALF LATER.

Not only is this system set up for corruption.  It also has elements of a scam.  If the fee is not paid immediately, all rights are waived in the agreement if the reduction firm sues the homeowner for immediate payment.  The payment due will be charged interest at usurious rates.  SORT OF LIKE A VIG.

Read the fine print.  Don't be elderly.  Know who you're dealing with.  AND DO IT YOURSELF OR USE YOUR OWN ATTORNEY OR ACCOUNTANT.

NOT THESE POSSIBLE PREDATORS.  These property assessments are the benchmark for most local taxes and all school taxes.  This is not trivial.  FILE BEFORE MARCH 1.

Postscript:    More mail.  Property Taxbuster Inc. wants my business.  "We only charge 33.33% of first year's savings."  What happened to honor among thieves? 


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