EAST ORANGE/ORANGE, NJ — According to a study released by WalletHub, a Washington D.C. based finance website, New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the country. The average effective property tax rate in New Jersey is 2.42%, compared to the national average of 1.07%. In East Orange, in 2020 the rate was 5.470% and in Orange 5.670%

This time of the year, residents are pulling together documents to try and appeal their taxes by the April 1 deadline.

Here are five big tips to appeal your big tax bill:

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1. Hire an attorney.

2. It is perfectly possible and common to represent yourself if you can not afford an attorney. 

3. During the appeal, if your only argument is your taxes are too high, you will lose. Instead, you must argue the assessed value of your home is too high.

What's the difference? 

Your property taxes are determined by a simple formula.

Example General Tax Rate: Assessed Value x Town/City's General Tax Rate  = Tax Bill 

To have a lower property tax due, you must prove the tax assessor should lower the assessed value of your home and/or land.  

4. For you to prove the assessed value of your home is too high, you must prove the assessment does not fairly represent either the True Market Value Standard or Common Level Range Standard.

The common level range for a taxing district is that range which is plus or minus 15% of the average ratio for that district.

The true market value standard requires you to get real estate comps on homes recently sold in the area. The homes should be similar in the square footage, number of bedroom and bathrooms, etc.  For example, if your home is being valued for $500,000, and a similar home was just sold market rate (not in a foreclosure or short sale) for $400,000, you can argue your property assessment should be $400,000. If most comps are foreclosures and short sales, as a long-shot, you could argue the market being depressed is proof your property is overvalued. Just might work.  

5. To appeal your property's assessment, File Form A-1  and Form A-1 Comp. Sale with the County Board of Taxation.

"If you are not satisfied with the decision made at your County Tax Board of Taxation hearing, you can file an appeal with the Tax Court of New Jersey. File your appeal with Tax Court within 45 days of the date of the County Board of Taxations judgment."