How are property taxes determined in New York City?
Although taxes are not the most interesting subject, nor are they likely to bring much happiness to anyone having to pay them, they are a necessary part of government. New York City residents know all too well how expensive property tax bills can be. About 45% of all NY City tax dollars collected each year come from real estate taxes. So how does the government go about calculating residential property tax bills? And is there any way to have property taxes lowered?
Properties in New York City are split into four classes. Class 1 includes one to three unit residential properties. Class 2 includes residential properties with more than 3 units, including cooperatives and condominiums. And Class 3 includes utility company equipment and special franchise property. Finally, Class 4 includes all other real property, such as office buildings, factories, stores, hotels, and lofts.
In this post I’ll concentrate on Class 1 properties. The first step the government takes in calculating Class 1 residential property tax bills is determining the market value of your residence. Government determines the market value by using statistical analysis that incorporates data such as recent selling prices of similar properties in your neighborhood. Similar properties are classified as those that are close in size, style, and age to your property.
The second step is determining a property’s assessed value. A property’s assessed value is a percentage of its market value. The good news is that the state law limits the increase of assessed value of a Class 1 property in New York City. For a Class 1 property, the assessed value cannot rise more than 6% in one year or 20% over five years, no matter how quickly the market value of your home increases. This is true unless you make a physical change to the property, such as an addition or renovation. Because of the caps, it is possible that the assessed value of your property continues to increase even if your market value decreases. This is because it can take years for assessed value to “catch up” to the market value.
Assessed value can change for many reasons, including but not limited to (1) your property’s market value changing; (2) making physical changes to your home, such as additions or renovations. These physical changes are not subject to the annual or five year caps on increases to your assessed value for that year; (3) You lost a tax exemption or abatement, or its value was reduced; (4) your assessed value is catching up to prior changes in market value.
The third step is applying exemptions that are on file. Exemptions reduce your assessed value before your taxes are calculated. The City of New York offers exemptions to seniors, veterans, clergy members, people with disabilities, and other homeowners. If you are granted an exemption, the amount of the exemption is subtracted from the assessed value of your home. This reduces your taxable value.
One common exemption in NYC is School Tax Relief (STAR), which is available to owners of houses, co-ops, and condos with less than $500k annual adjusted gross income. Typically this exemption earns you tax savings of approximately $300 per year.
By subtracting any exemptions from the assessed value of your property, you will get your taxable value. This leads to step 4, the final step the government takes to calculate Class 1 residential property tax bills, which is applying the city’s tax rate for Class 1 properties to taxable value, and then subtracting any applicable abatements. The city’s tax rate percentage for Class 1 properties is set annually by the city council based partially on state law requirements.
However, you can still get a discount on your final tax bill if you qualify for certain tax abatements. Abatements reduce your taxes after they’ve already been calculated. This means that once the tax rate percentage is applied to the taxable value of your property, abatements can further reduce the bottom line. Standard abatements provided by the government include:
- cooperative and condominium abatement,
- green roof abatement,
- major capital improvement (MCI) abatement, and
- solar roof abatement.
Every January the Department of Finance will send a Notice of Property Value (NOPV) to homeowners explaining the determination of their property’s market and assessed values, and listing applicable exemptions. If you feel that the assessed value on your property is too high, you have the right to appeal to the New York City Tax Commission. To have the Tax Commission lower your assessment, you must prove that your property’s value is less than its effective market value (assessed value before exemptions divided by 6%).
Property taxes in New York City can be painful, both to your bank account and to understand. Although taxes are certain, if we arm ourselves with knowledge we can make them a little less painful.