With the commercial real estate market continuing to falter, the viability of a property tax appeal warrants considered attention at this time. Unfortunately, measurable declines in the real estate values, across property class segments, have not been the exception. While glimmers of hope have recently been observed, including slow to modest increases in demand for industrial space over the course of the last quarter of 2011, the continued sluggish movement of vacancy and rental rates in the positive direction means the filing of a tax appeal is likely again justified for the 2012 tax year.

Last year, the New Jersey Tax Court was busy docketing an unprecedented level of appeals and municipalities are again bracing for yet another consecutive record appeal season. Grounds supporting a downward adjustment to current levels of property tax assessments persist today. The continued economic malaise and waning consumer confidence precipitated, in part, by historically high levels of sustained unemployment means that empirical data can be marshalled to support a successful appeal.

The process of ensuring that you only pay your fair share of property taxes can, however, only be initiated with the timely filing of a property tax appeal. The 2012 tax appeal filing deadline is April 2, 2012.

By now, you should have received a Property Tax Assessment Notice (post card) from your local tax assessor. This notice will identify the property tax assessment applicable to your property for 2012. Understanding the assessment notice is the critical first step in navigating the taxation minefield. Unless your town is assessing properties as part of a town-wide revaluation or reassessment, the assessment number will not translate to your property's purported fair market value. Instead, this number must be adjusted so that a fair apple to apple comparison can be made. Each town is assigned an equalization ratio by the Director of the Division of Taxation and it is this ratio which must be divided into the assessment to provide the implied or equalized value actually being relied upon by the town. Only after obtaining this implied value can the analysis continue.