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Land Use, Environmental and Zoning Laws - J&G

The Associated Press recently reported that the President of the United State sued the Palm Beach Tax Appraiser saying his Mar-a-Largo golf course was actually worth much less than its assessment. His lawyers argue that the nearly $400,000 property tax bill is too high. Trump is not the only person who can file because their taxes are too high. In New York, individual property owners and business entities that own property can sue to reduce their property taxes. When you file to reduce your taxes in New York the official term is “grieving your taxes”.  You are proceeding because you believe your property assessment is too high. The property value and how you are treated compared to other properties is the issue.

Real estate taxes are the principal revenue source for municipalities to pay for expenses such as school infrastructure, teachers and municipal employees salaries, highways, parks, and other projects for the general welfare of the citizens. Real estate taxes allocate the municipal tax burden based on your property’s assessed value. The higher your property is assessed the greater your proportionate share of taxes. For example, a municipality that has 10 properties and the budget is $100. If all of the properties had the same assessed value then each property owner is responsible for $10 in taxes. It gets more complicated when you have different types of properties in the municipality and all are assessed at different market values. Add exemptions like STAR, veteran’s, 485-b, and agricultural, to name only a few, make analysis more challenging.

Challenging your New York State property taxes is a technical process. The attorneys at Jacobowitz and Gubits have extensive experience in challenging real property tax assessments. Our knowledgeable Hudson Valley attorneys have successfully challenged all types of property assessments including industrial plants, apartment complexes, golf courses, condominiums, subdivisions, lodging facilities, and more. We can help determine if you are paying too much in property taxes.

Contesting your real property taxes is a process is time sensitive; how long depends upon your decision to challenge a single year or multiple years. You will likely receive a tax bills before your matter is resolved. You must still pay the tax to avoid penalties and interest.

There are two standards to determine if your property taxes are too high:

  • Over assessment – Your assessment reflects the assessor’s opinion and the assessor assigns a property value greater than its market value
  • Unequal assessment – Your tax assessment is out of line when compared to assessments of similar properties


The process begins by first filing a grievance with the Board of Assessment in the municipality where your property is located. You MUST file a grievance to preserve your right to challenge the real property assessment. Now is the time to consider your commercial, industrial, agricultural, or vacant property assessment. The deadline to file the grievance is May 22, 2018 for most Hudson Valley towns and cities. If unsuccessful, you must preserve your rights and commence a proceeding in Supreme Court called a tax certiorari to challenge the Board of Assessment Review’s determination. You have thirty (30) days after the tax roll is finalized to commence a tax certiorari proceeding. The paperwork to file and commence this proceeding is technical and necessary. The law requires strict compliance or your case will be dismissed. The attorneys at J&G can prepare the complicated paperwork for you.

An experienced attorney understands the nuances of your property’s value. Depending upon the type of property the approach to value can be different. Unless the property is vacant land, the current use of the property dictates how it is valued. Each type of property can require different approaches to value.


For example, golf courses require a unique method of valuation. There are various components in the valuation of golf courses. It is also important to choose the right appraiser to value the golf course. Four principles to keep in mind when contesting the assessment of a golf course:

  1. The golf course is classified as an improvement to the raw land and its value should not be included in the land value portion of your assessment.
  2. New York State values properties in their current use not the highest and best use.
  3. The type of golf course affects its value. Is the course, public, private, municipal, daily fee, or semi-private? The answer to this question matters.
  4. The amenities offered at the golf course also affect the value. For example if there is a restaurant, pro-shop, banquet facility for rent, or golf carts for rent. All of this revenue affect the value.


Hotels and motels also require a unique valuation method. Hotels and motels have four components affecting value: improvements, land, going concern (aka business good will), and personal property. In New York State when valuing lodging facilities, only the market value of the land and improvements are at issue. Therefore the appraiser needs to break-down each component to determine the lodging facility’s value for assessment purposes. Four principles to keep in mind when valuing a hotel or motel:

  1. There is a large constant investment in furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E).
  2. Valuation of the intangible personal property such as going-concern is an art not a science, therefore it can be debated.
  3. Valuation typically starts by establishing the net income before deducting property taxes.
  4. Other deductions are made for going-concern, personal property, management fees and other accepted deductions to arrive at the net operating income that is then capitalized to establish value of the real estate.


We can answer the questions of whether you are over assessed or unequally assessed, typically within 24 hours. This will be at no charge. When you call, be prepared to provide these items:

  1. A copy of your most recent tax bill for school, county, town, and village;
  2. A copy of your income and expense statement if your property is income producing.


Allison G. Cappella  is an Associate Attorney with the firm and practices Tax Certiorari,  She can be reached by phone at 866-303-9595 toll free or 845-764-9656 and by email


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