Thursday, December 15, 2011

What is an Assessment?

Daniel Tartaglia, Esq.

A property's assessment is based on its market value. Market value is how much a property would sell for under normal conditions. Assessments are determined by the assessor, an elected or appointed local official who independently estimates the value of real property in an assessing unit. Assessing units follow municipal boundaries - county, city, town, or village.

The assessor can estimate the market value of property based on the sale prices of similar properties. A property can also be valued based on the depreciated cost of materials and labor required to replace it. Commercial property may be valued on its potential to produce rental income for its owners. In other words, the assessor can use whatever approach provides the best estimate of a property's market value. Properties in suboptimal uses generally may not be assessed at market value; they must be assessed at their current-use value.

Once the assessor estimates the value of a property, its total assessment is calculated by multiplying the market value by the uniform percentage for the municipality. New York State law provides that all property in a municipality be assessed at the same uniform percentage of value (except in Nassau County and NYC where class assessing is authorized). That percentage can be five percent, ten percent, 50 percent, or any other percentage not exceeding 100 percent. It does not matter what percentage is used. What is important is that every property is assessed at the same uniform percentage within one assessing unit.

After a property's total assessment is determined, its taxable assessed value is computed. The taxable assessed value is the total assessment minus any applicable property tax exemptions. Exemptions are typically either whole or partial, that is either an exemption from paying any property tax or an exemption from paying part of a property tax bill.

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