Wayne Township Owner Misses the Boat on Property Tax Error

by: Anthony F. Della Pelle
29 Jun 2011

Assessor’s Mistake Still Required Filing of Tax Appeal by Property Owner

The Appellate Division affirmed a Tax Court judge’s decision to deny summary judgment for a property owner by holding that a tax assessor’s mistake should have been challenged through the standard tax appeal procedure found in N.J.S.A. 54:3-21a.  The subject property consisted of .229 acre vacant parcel of land for which the Township’s Board of Adjustment granted plaintiff’s application for a “c” variance and building permit.  Although no improvements were made to the property, the $3,400 assessment was increased to $40,200 in 2009 based upon the assessor’s mistaken impression that the property had been improved.  The tax assessor reduced the assessment for 2010 to $10,200 upon learning of the mistake.  Instead of challenging the assessment, the owner filed a complaint under the Correction of Errors statute, N.J.S.A. 54:51A-7.

The Tax Court and Appellate Division rejected this methodology because the Correction of Errors statute should only be invoked when a correction can be made with the exercise of judgment.  Here, the parties agreed that no tax appeal was filed before April 1st as required by statute.  Thus, the Tax Court was never vested with jurisdiction to hear an appeal.  Additionally, the assessment did not revert back to its original value, so the assessor had exercised some judgment in assigning the new assessment which removed the issue from the Correction of Errors statute.  The Appellate Division then concluded that the mistake in the 2009 tax assessment should have been “addressed through the standard tax appeal procedure,” because its “correction [was] not necessarily readily ascertainable or subject to easy calculation based solely on the nature of the mistake.”

A copy of the Appellate Division’s opinion in Iljirjan Bida v. Twp. of Wayne, A-0170-10T1, (June 27, 2011), can be found here.

For more discussion on property owners challenging their assessments, please see the following blog posts:

Owner Takes Action: Taxes are Too Darned High

Property Owner Keeps Tax Abatement After Municipality Failed to “Turn Square Corners”

Failure to Pay Taxes at Time of Appeal Proves Fatal to Commercial Property Owner

The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Cory K. Kestner, Esq., of McKirdy & Riskin, PA, in the preparation of this article.