Terms to Know

Also see Glossary of Terms from New York State Department of Taxation & Finance

Arms Length Sale: This is a sale between a willing buyer and a willing seller under ordinary conditions.

Assessing Unit: An "assessing unit" is a city, town or county having a county department of assessment with the power to assess real property. This would also include a village unless it has enacted a local law. Sometimes an assessing unit may contain properties or portions thereof from neighboring towns.

Assessed Value: This is the value that a property owner would actually pay taxes on. If the Equalization Rate is at 80%, the Assessed Value would be 80% of the Full Market Value. For example, if the Full Market Value of a property is $250,000 and the Equalization Rate is at 80%, the Assessed Value would be $200,000.

Board of Assessment Review (BAR): a group of people who are appointed by the local municipality to hear and decide "Real Property Tax" grievances that could not be resolved between a property owner and the local assessor. The Board can consist of three to five members. The terms of service are five years and are staggered so that no more than one member's service will expire in the same calendar year. The Board can not meet unless it has a quorum or a majority of the members present. Board members should be familiar with property values, be at least 18 years old, be a U. S. citizen, a resident of the municipality and must take and file an oath of office. Members should possess a judicial temperament, provide a fair hearing, safeguard the due process of law and make decisions based on the facts presented by both the complainant and the assessor. New or re-appointee Board of Assessment Review members are required to attend training before they can participate in grievance hearings. A certificate of attendance will be provided. Source: Bar Training Manual

CAMA: Is short for a computer assisted mass appraisal system. This system is used by assessors due to the large volume of properties in an assessing unit. This method involves the valuing of a group of properties as of a particular date using common data, standardized methods and statistical testing. Although this is a good system, some unique characteristics of individual properties may be missed. This can cause certain properties to become Unequally or Excessively assessed.

Change of Assessment Notices: As a new assessment year begins, letters aresent out to property owners whose property assessments have changed.

Equalization Rate: An equalization rate is New York State's measure of a municipality's level of assessment. Total assessed value of the municipality divided by total market value of the municipality equals the equalization rate. If your town's equalization rate is 100 that means that 100% of the town's property is assessed at full market value. Your home's assessment should be as close as possible to the full market rate, or the price for which you can sell your property. That is why regular reassessments to get a town's total true assessment value is important. 100% equalization rates help assure that people are paying a fair rate, not too high and not too low. (source NYS)

Excessive Assessment: a method of grieving, where the taxpayer only needs to prove the assessed value exceeds the full value of the property. In other words, the taxpayer needs to establish that the full market value of the property is less than the estimated full market value established by the assessor. See Resources

Exemption: A form of relief from taxation where all or part of the assessed value is free from payment of some or all tax levies. Typically granted to individuals as a matter of public policy (elderly and veterans exemptions), property owned by the federal, state or municipal governments or their agencies, and organizations such as private schools organized for a specific exempt purpose with the added requirement that the parcel must be used to achieve that purpose. Source: NYS dept of Taxation & Finance

Full Market Value: This is the value the assessor has estimated and assigned to the property as if it were to sell on the current open market.

Grievance Day: is the deadline for submitting Form RP-524 and the day that the BAR meets to hear assessment complaints. In most communities, Grievance Day is the fourth Tuesday in May, but you should confirm the date with your assessor or municipal clerk; visit Municipal Profiles for local contact information.

Non-Arms Length Sale: This is a sale to a family member or a sale not advertised on the open market under normal conditions. This type of sale would not be considered a true market value and would not be used in determining assessments.

Progressive tax: A tax that takes a larger percentage of income from high-income groups than from low-income groups. source: IRS

Proportional tax: A tax that takes the same percentage of income from all income groups source: IRS

Real Property Tax: an "Ad Valorem Tax" meaning it is a tax that is based on the Market Value of a property.

Regressive tax: tax that takes a larger percentage of income from low-income groups than from high-income groups. source: IRS

Taxable Status Date: (March 1st): This is the date the assessor uses to assess a property according to the condition and ownership. Any changes to a property after this date will not take place until he next assessable year.

Real Property Tax Cap: With some exceptions, the State’s Property Tax Cap limits the amount local governments and most school districts can increase the tax levy (the total amount of property taxes billed) to the lower of two percent or the rate of inflation. (Individual property tax bills are based on various factors, and they may increase more than two percent.) Local governments, citizens and the Office of the New York State Comptroller (OSC) play important roles in the process. To override the cap, local government boards must pass a local law or resolution by at least a 60% vote. Voters in school districts can override the cap with a 60% vote. Source: NYS Comptroller's Office

Small Claims Assessment Review or SCAR: For one, two or three family residences, a procedure that provides property owners with an opportunity to challenge the assessment on their real property as determined by the Board of Assessment Review (in counties outside Nassau and NYC) or the Assessment Review Commission (Nassau County) or the New York City Tax Commission (NYC). It is a less costly and more informal alternative to a formal Tax Certiorari proceeding, which can be time consuming and expensive. As outlined in Section 730 of the Real Property Tax Law, property owners may petition the court for review of their property assessment before a specially trained hearing officer for a nominal fee of $30. Read more Source: NYCourts.gov

Stipulation Agreement: Stipulating to an assessment reduction. On or prior to Grievance Day, you and the assessor may stipulate to a reduced assessment of the value of your property. To do so, complete and sign Part Six of Form RP-524. Be sure to receive a copy of the signed stipulation for your records. If you enter into a stipulation, you may not ask the board of assessment review for a further reduction in your assessment for that assessment year. If the agreed upon assessment appears on the final assessment roll, you will not be allowed to seek a lower assessment through judicial review. source: page 81 Assessors Manual

Tentative Assessment Roll: In most towns the tentative assessment roll is made public on May 1. The tentative roll lists assessment information for every property for the current year. It is the taxpaper's responsibility to check your assessment and exemptions on the tentative roll after it has been filed. Questions about your assessment should be directed to your assessor. After meeting with your assessor, if you are still dissatisfied, you have the right to file for a formal review by your Board of Assessment Review by the filing deadline, Grievance Day. Source: NYS Dept. of Taxation & Finance

Tax Certiorari or Article 78: Article 78 proceedings are lawsuits mainly used to challenge an action (or inaction) by agencies of New York State and local governments. Article 78 proceedings are also sometimes filed against judges, tribunals, boards, and even private companies whose existence is based on statutory authority.This type of grievance is for all property owners. It needs to be done by attorneys and may cost several thousands ofdollars in attorney fees. Source: LawNy.org

Uniform Percentage of Value: All real property in each assessing unit is assessed at a "uniform percentage of value" or "level of assessment." This is better known as the Equalization Rate.  An Equalization Rate of 100% would be the full value standard for all property based on the same market value period and is the price a willing buyer would pay a willing seller under ordinary conditions.  

Unequal Assessment: A method of grieving where the property owner must prove that the assessed value is at a higher percentage of value than the assessed value of other real property on the assessment roll. Note: This is very difficult to prove.

Update or Revaluation: As the Equalization Rate drops below 100% there is a need for what is called an update or revaluation for all properties. This reestablishes all assessments to the current full market value of 100%. If properties values rise, and there are no updates or revaluations, the Equalization Rate would go down equal to the percentage of what the property values increased. If the overall value of the properties in the assessing unit increased by 5%, without an update, the current Equalization Rate would only be 95%.  If there were no change in the assessments the Equalization Rate would remain at 100%.  New York State would like to keep the Equalization Rates as close to 100% as possible.

Valuation Date: This is the date the assessor establishes the market value of a property. For many locations it is July 1st of the previous year.

Vertical equity: The concept that people in different income groups should pay different rates of taxes or different percentages of their incomes as taxes. “Unequals should be taxed unequally.”