Apex Concierge 970x250

Pro Se Vs. A Pro: Should I Grieve My Own Taxes?

10/27/2021

Photo 123rf

The Latin term for “on behalf on oneself” is Pro Se. You’ve likely heard it used in terms of legal proceedings of the kind you see on TV or in the movies, where the defendant stands up in a packed courtroom and announces “I am representing myself, Your Honor.” The practice can also apply when grieving one’s property taxes, but the question is, should I really undertake that myself?

“Unfortunately, often Pro Se filers submit invalid evidence rendering their grievance unsuccessful,” according to Amy Madmon, Partner at Maidenbaum. “Further, Nassau County assessment statistics indicate that Pro Se grievance filers have a lower success rate than tax grievance companies—specifically Maidenbaum’s success rate is 2.5 times greater.”

If you’ve decided to handle a grievance yourself, say the experts at Maidenbaum Tax, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the tools provided by Nassau County’s Assessment Review Commission (ARC).

ARC’s tool is called AROW (Assessment Review on the Web). AROW lets you review the data that the County has on your property, conduct online searches of recent sales in your area to determine if your property is overvalued (in other words, is valued at a price greater than what you’d get from an actual sale of the property), and perform other tasks (such as review School and General Tax payments you’ve made in past years). It also provides for direct online submissions of property tax assessment grievances.

One essential area you will need to explore is whether Nassau County’s data on your property is accurate.

Remember, the Maidenbaum team reminds us, the assessed value of your property listed in AROW is an estimate and may or may not agree with the value you’d get in an actual sale of your property. It’s crucial to examine the property characteristics listed in the system, because these have an impact on what AROW thinks your property is worth. You can inspect this data using AROW’s “Ladder Report,” which includes data relating to:

  • Living Area
  • Land Size
  • Style
  • Quality
  • Number of Bath Fixtures
  • Depreciation
  • Basement Type
  • Heating System
  • Presence/absence of Pools, Wood Decks, Porches or Attached/Detached Garages

Data in the AROW Ladder Report also extends to neighborhood characteristics (including the traffic level of the street nearest your property). Because all this data is relevant to determining your property’s assessed value, it’s very important to compare the data the County has to the actual reality of your home, land and neighborhood, according to the Maidenbaum experts. Perhaps the County’s assessment is spot on, or close to 100% accurate, or maybe it’s wildly off. Only a close examination of the data compiled by Nassau County on your particular property will reveal the truth; if there are errors, you’ll need to note them when you file your grievance.

But evaluating whether the data compiled by AROW on your property is accurate is just the first step; you also need to look at whether the comparable properties used by AROW to establish your property’s fair market value are truly “comparable.” Residential properties—even identical houses with identical floorplans and lot acreage—can differ tremendously in terms of depreciation, improvements, and other details that may result in markedly different fair market values.

If you’re filing Pro Se, determining whether “comparable” properties are truly comparable can be a challenging task, as you’ll need to use your own judgment.

“At some point in the process, you may get an ‘offer’ from the Nassau County Assessment Review Commission (‘ARC’),” says Maidenbaum Property Tax Reduction Group, LLC Property Tax Supervisor John P. Frascella. “This is often a difficult point in the process for Pro Se filers. How will you know if you are getting enough of a reduction? What do you do if you want to pursue a greater reduction? What if you get a reduction offer of zero?”

While there’s no reason that you can’t do this job yourself, statistics show that using a professional will result in a greater tax savings for you, in light of experience, data and state-of-the- art technology utilized to analyze cases.

“Again, there’s nothing wrong with filing a pro se grievance, and we encourage you to spend time with AROW to familiarize yourself with how the tool works, to better understand the various and multitudinous data points that factor into your assessment, and to identify and flag any obvious errors,” says Madmon. “But don’t make the mistake of filing a pro se tax challenge that’s defective, incomplete, or ignores details that have an impact on your fair share of the tax burden.”

Learn more about property tax grievances and other property tax issues at maidenbaumtax.com.

Related: Should I Grieve My Taxes If I’m Selling My Home?