New York's Property Tax System

The property tax is a primary source of revenue for local government - for schools, towns, cities, villages, counties, fire and other special districts. New York has 1,116 assessing units, each of which determines its own level of assessment and reassessment cycle.  The size of the assessing units ranges from 189 parcels to more than 1 million, with more than 80% having fewer than 5,000 parcels.  The frequency of reassessments varies widely, ranging from some municipalities that reassess annually to others that haven't reassessed in more than 75 years.

How property is assessed

The first step in assessing is to determine a property's market value. To estimate market values, the assessor must be familiar with the local real estate market. A property's value can be estimated in three different ways:

Market approach

The assessor compares property to similar properties that have recently sold typically used to value residential, vacant, and farm properties.

Cost approach

The assessor calculates the cost to replace a structure with a similar one using today's labor and material prices subtract depreciation
add the market value of the land used to value industrial, special purpose and utility properties.

Income approach

The assessor analyzes how much income a property (such as an apartment building) will produce if rented takes into account: 
operating expenses insurance maintenance costs financing terms amount expected to be earned.  

Assessors also use Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal techniques to analyze property sales and estimate values for multiple properties simultaneously.

From market value to assessment

Once the assessor estimates the market value of a property, its assessment is calculated. In a city or town assessing at 100% of market value, the market value becomes the assessment. If assessments in your municipality are at a fraction of market value, the assessment is calculated by multiplying the market value of the property by the level of assessment for the municipality.

For example: Market value of property = $100,000 Level of assessment = 27%  Assessment = $27,000
What is a reassessment, and why are they needed?

New York State Real Property Tax Law (RPTL) requires all properties in each municipality (except in New York City and Nassau County) to be assessed at a uniform percentage of market value each year.  This means that all properties in each city, town or village must be assessed at market value or all at the same uniform percentage of market value each year.  State Law also requires your assessor to include the estimate of the market value for each property, the assessment for each property and the uniform percentage for all taxable property on the tentative assessment roll.

During a reassessment, the assessor (or a hired contractor) will review the market values of all of the properties in the community. Based on changes in the real estate market, the assessor will determine which assessments need to be increased or decreased.

What is the difference between the market value and assessed value of my property?

The market value of your property is generally defined as what your property would sell for under normal conditions. For residential properties, your assessor generally determines market values by comparing a property with similar properties that have sold in similar neighborhoods, giving consideration to other factors possibly affecting market value.

In many communities, where assessments are maintained at a uniform percentage of 100, your assessment is market value. In other words, your assessed value would equal market value. If your community is assessing at a fractional percentage of market value, your assessment should be based upon the percentage being used throughout the community. For instance, if the market value of your home is $100,000, and your community is assessing at 30 percent of market value, your assessment should be $30,000.

Selective Assessing vs. Fair Assessing

The Real Property Tax Law (see Sections 301 and 305) requires assessors to assess all real property at a uniform percentage of market value each year. Not surprisingly, some taxpayers may believe that they have been selectively reassessed. Selective reassessment is characterized by a municipality that is not doing a municipal-wide reassessment, yet specific parcels, various portions of an assessing unit, or certain types of property are reassessed without regard to the relative uniformity of assessments within the municipality. Municipal-wide reassessments are the best way to ensure that assessments are fair and accurate.

Property tax calendar

Each year, there are certain dates that property owners should bear in mind. These dates can vary in some counties and municipalities.
There are six primary "action" dates for property owners:

Taxable Status Date 

March 1 in most communities*
Due date for exemption applications
On or around this date, assessment impact notices are sent to property owners in municipalities conducting reassessments 

Tentative Roll Date

May 1 in most communities*
Tentative assessment roll is made available to the public
Assessments are based on their condition and ownership on Taxable Status Date and the value of property on Valuation Date (see below)
Within ten days: Assessment rolls must be available from the municipal website, Assessment increase notices must be sent to affected property owners

School Budget Voting Day

3rd Tuesday in May
All residents are eligible to vote  

Grievance Day

4th Tuesday in May in most communities* 
If you contest your assessment, you must file your grievance application by this date

Final Roll Date

July 1 in most communities*
If you grieved your assessment and did not receive the relief you requested, you can apply for judicial review of your assessment within 30 days following Final Roll Date 

School property tax bills

Mailed in the beginning of September in most communities*
Pay close attention to the deadline for payments - they too can vary from one town to the next 

Municipal & County property tax bills

Mailed in the beginning of January in most communities*
Payment deadlines vary in some municipalities and counties 

Valuation Date

Valuation Date is the date upon which the value of your property is based. In most communities, Valuation Date is July 1 of the prior year.* For instance, assessments on the 2011 assessment roll (typically made public on May 1, 2011) were based on the value of property as of July 1, 2010.

The lag between Tentative Roll Date and Valuation Date enables assessors and taxpayers to use all available sales before AND after the Valuation Date to estimate the value of property.

Taxable Status Date vs. Valuation Date

As noted above, the assessments published on the tentative and final assessment rolls are:

Based on the value of the property on Valuation Date
Based on the property'€™s condition and ownership as of Taxable Status Date

Examples: Your home was destroyed by fire in February, 2011 leaving only a vacant lot.

Because the property burned down prior to Taxable Status Date, your 2011 assessment was based on the vacant lot only.
Your 2011 assessment was based on the value of your vacant lot on July 1, 2010 (Valuation Date).
Your September 2011 school taxes and January 2012 town/county taxes are based on the value of the vacant lot.

Your home burned down on March 15, 2011 leaving only a vacant lot.

Because the property burned down after Taxable Status Date, your 2011 assessment was based on your property with your home intact.
Your 2011 assessment was based on the value of your home on July 1, 2010 (Valuation Date).Your September 2011 school taxes and January 2012 town/county taxes are based on the value of your home.

Property Tax FACTS