New York property tax, part 2

Continued from How do I fight property taxes in New York?

But what if I’m already behind on property taxes?

The is the second part of the answer. Unfortunately, the short answer is: It depends.

It depends on how far behind you are–and here’s why, according to a state FAQ page about property tax:

Q: What if I can’t pay my property tax bill?

A: It is the duty of all property owners to pay their property taxes. Counties and cities generally enforce their own delinquent taxes; if payment is not received during the 30-day penalty-free period, then the Redemption Phase begins. The Redemption Phase can last two years, and the property owner has the chance to pay the overdue taxes, plus all other charges and interest. If the bill is still unpaid, then the Intermediate Phase notifies the public that a judicial tax enforcement proceeding may be commenced. The Foreclosure Phase is last; the court grants the enforcement entity permission to execute a deed conveying title to the tax district (the tax district may sell the property to recoup the taxes and penalties). More information is available at the county Treasurer’s Office.

There’s time, but clock is ticking–while penalties and interest piling up

In other words, if you can foresee not being able to pay your property tax, you have some amount of planning time; you may want to consider the cost/benefit of going ahead and hiring a property/tax attorney. A trained, experienced can help you create a plan to avoid any penalties. Obviously, that would be ideal. Alternatively, if you are already in the Redemption Phase, it’s time to at least consult an attorney, even if only for one visit. That being said, the nearer you are to the end of the Redemption Phase and closer to the Intermediate Phase,  it’s probably time to bite the bullet and hire the best attorney you can find.

At this point you’re not even hoping for a general practice attorney but instead a specialist who knows up-to-the-minute, New York property and tax law inside and out.

Tax authorities don’t need ‘mortgage note’ to foreclose

Think of it this way. Once you’re in the Foreclosure Phase, depending on the particular situation, it may be too late for even the most technical attorney to be of much help. Remember, a foreclosure of this type is much different than those much-ballyhooed scandal of mistaken foreclosures foisted on the market by the big-bank, mortgage industry. Of course, it’s ALWAYS worth consulting a good attorney when you get in these situations, so don’t simply give up.

Report details high cost of rising taxes

Another to remember is that you’re not alone in feeling the burden of high property taxes. Following are some bullet points from a report by the New York State Comptroller:

  • The property tax is by far the largest tax imposed by local governments in the State, representing 79 percent of all local taxes outside of New York City.
  • Per capita property tax burdens in New York are 49 percent higher than the national average and property taxes measured as a share of personal income are 28 percent higher.
  • This disparity is even greater for taxpayers in most of the State, since New York City’s property taxes are relatively low compared with other local governments (because it collects revenue from a number of other local taxes, including a personal income tax).
  • Local property tax levies grew by 60 percent from 1995 to 2005, more than twice the rate of inflation during that period (28 percent). Most of this growth occurred in the [past] 5 years – when property tax levies increased by 42 percent, compared to inflation of 13 percent.

In summary, a financial planner or CPA might help, and it could be useful to make sure your local governing body is not planning on overriding the tax cap, but once you realize you will have problems paying your property tax bill, your best bet is to contact a trained attorney, as soon as possible, to get a legal assessment of your individual situation.

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