How we reduce your property taxes (and save you money).
Can my taxes be reduced?
Each year, more and more Nassau County residents are taking advantage of existing appeal procedures that have resulted in millions of dollars in overall tax reductions, and thousands of dollars in individual tax savings. School, town, county, and village taxes are subject to annual review and reduction. Tax savings are cumulative and many homeowners are able to obtain thousands of dollars in annual tax savings by challenging their assessments each year. Most homeowners file an appeal every year after making the decision to hire a tax professional.
The attorneys at Schroder & Strom analyze each home on a case-by-case basis to determine the potential for a reduction. Whether there is merit to an appeal is based on many factors – sales of comparable properties and factors unique to your home that can affect the potential market value used to review your assessment. Each case must be analyzed individually.
What do you charge and how do you get paid?
Our fees are based on a percentage of actual savings and/or tax refunds obtained as a direct result of our services. The standard fee for residential properties is 50% of the savings and/or refund obtained for the first year of the reduction. If we are successful in the second year, our fee is limited to a percentage of the additional savings we achieve, not the combined savings.
Does it cost more to use an attorney than a tax service?
Absolutely not, and we believe our clients receive more value and services for the same fee. Here’s why:
Our law firm is regulated by the New York State Rules of Professional Conduct which mandates that our client’s interest always comes first, that all cases must be handled equally, no matter what the value or annual tax bill is, that all funds received must be held in a highly-regulated escrow account, and that our lawyers are responsible for the conduct of all staff members. Every decision made is based on what is best for you, the taxpayer, rather than what is best for the law firm.
As attorneys, we have the ability to take an appeal directly to Supreme Court rather than Small Claims, when valuation issues are complex or the form of ownership precludes Small Claims review. Fees are the same no matter where and how long it takes to resolve an annual tax appeal.
We also handle Correction of Error Applications which provide limited relief for assessor’s errors and refunds of up to three prior tax years, even if no appeals were filed. Our clients have been able to address inaccurate measurements of land area and building size, along with the improper full assessment of partially completed buildings during the course of construction. A Farmingdale client received a $4,000 refund and annual savings due to an error in land size. A Garden City client is receiving a $12,000 refund due to an error in building size and status of construction of a new home. Neither client filed an appeal and came to our firm after paying their tax bills.
I want to add on to / demolish my house; how will that affect my taxes?
Generally, any physical change in a property will change its assessment. In Nassau County it takes about two years for the tax bill to catch up with the change in assessment due to construction or demolition. It is prudent to call our attorneys to discuss the changes you contemplate – even if you are not currently a client, for a no-cost consultation. Clients who are about to purchase a home which has had an older addition legalized by the seller should also expect to pay more in taxes in the future after the Assessor is notified of the addition.
My neighbors have a very similar house to mine and they are paying a lot less in taxes. Why?
Your tax bill is based on a calculation of your assessed value multiplied by the tax rates for your property. Variables such as age of the house, size of the property, amenities within the home, and the number of past successful appeals can cause a substantial variance between your neighbor’s assessment and your own. More and more homeowners are realizing that their neighbors have lower taxes for identical homes due solely on the fact that appeals have been filed for several years. Assessments are determined by the Department of Assessment and are reviewed by an independent agency, the Assessment Review Commission. The Nassau County Assessor does not reduce assessments on appeal and has no part in the review process. The County can only reduce the value of a home under appeal and will not reduce the value of any surrounding homes, no matter how high the other homes are valued.
Your neighbor with lower taxes may be benefitting from any number of exemptions offered by Nassau County or New York State. The award of any of these exemptions can produce a substantial tax benefit for your neighbor. Call one of our attorneys to find out if you are receiving all available exemptions and how and when to apply for them.
I just received my invoice and the claimed savings does not make sense if I calculate the difference in taxes from last year to this year.
In order to calculate the actual savings generated by a reduction in assessment you must calculate what your property taxes would have been at the originally assessed value before filing the appeal and what they are at the reduced assessed value using the tax rates appearing on the bills issued with the reduced assessment. All of our invoices provide these details for your review. The reason you cannot calculate the savings in taxes by comparing this year’s bill to last year’s, is that the tax rates increase every year. Accordingly, if you do not challenge your assessment, your tax bills will naturally increase every year.
I receive solicitations from other tax relief companies all of the time claiming they can obtain large reductions for me and most seem to guarantee a 25% reduction by simply signing and returning a form. Why don’t you make the same claim?
The companies that send solicitations in the mail are not law firms or attorneys, and therefore are not bound by the Rules of Professional Conduct that Schroder & Strom adheres to. These rules mandate that lawyers may not make extravagant marketing claims regarding results that cannot be achieved; some solicitations claim that they can reduce your taxes by 25%. 25% is the maximum reduction allowable in a Small Claims Assessment Review Proceeding; each case will produce different results.
We make it our business to provide an accurate evaluation of the merits of your case. Our firm has never solicited business through mass mailings. Our residential business was built by satisfied clients over the years.
The County’s website indicates that I have a pool, shed, raised deck, extra bathroom, second story, detached garage, finished basement or attic in or on my property and I do not. How does this affect my taxes and what should I do to correct their records?
Discrepancies on the County website are common and sometimes they are harmless. However, if the County has your home listed as much larger than it actually is, or that you have structures on your property that do not exist, then it would be wise to consult with one of our attorneys at no cost to consider a petition to the County to correct their information. A representative from the Department of Assessment must conduct an inspection of your property in order to confirm that they did make a mistake. We can discuss the pros and cons of notifying the County. Once the Department of Assessment identifies a mistake with property information it takes approximately two years for the tax bills to reflect the correct property.
How do you reduce my taxes, what is the process?
After retaining our services, we do everything required to file and resolve your appeal. The tax appeals process begins with the filing of a grievance after the publication of the tentative assessment roll in early January of each year. Grievances are then reviewed by an administrative agency in Nassau County called the Assessment Review Commission (ARC). ARC has approximately 15 months to review each of the protests and negotiate a resolution. If a resolution cannot be obtained by April 1 of the following year, we file a Small Claims Assessment Review Proceeding (SCAR). All SCAR petitions must be filed with the Supreme Court by April 30 and served on the appropriate parties.
Each matter in which a SCAR petition was filed is entitled to a hearing before a neutral hearing officer employed by the Supreme Court. At the hearings both the homeowner and the County assessment staff submit evidence of the value of the home and make a presentation to the hearing officer. The hearing officer will generally reserve decision, which means they will consider the evidence and mail a decision to the parties within 60 days. If a reduction is awarded then either the final tax roll is corrected before a tax bill is issued, or a refund is issued for the overpayment of taxes.
Your firm is very successful in appealing my Nassau County Assessment, why can’t you do the same in my Village?
We always review the Village assessment of a property. Villages maintain their own assessor and separate and distinct assessment roll. That’s the reason that a separate tax appeal must be filed against a Village. The Village appeal follows the same general steps as a County appeal, however the Village will, in most cases, be resolved in a SCAR proceeding. Generally speaking, local Villages have a much better grasp on the value of properties within its assessing jurisdiction. We have clients in every Village in Nassau County and have successfully resolved thousands of Village appeals.
Don’t all tax appeal companies and firms handle Village tax appeals?
No, in fact most do not because tax refunds are typically much smaller than County refunds and firms do not want to spend time on your behalf seeking Village reductions. At Schroder & Strom, LLP, we handle every type of appeal and can take each appeal further – up to the State’s highest appeals court, because we are attorneys.