Whether people like it or not, taxes are necessary, and it is particularly true in the case of property tax. Local governments levy a tax on property to generate additional revenue. This is used as funding for public schools, the local police and fire departments, garbage collection and disposal services, as well as maintaining our streets.
Unfortunately for those with properties in New York, The Balance reveals that the state’s property tax is quite high. It is, in fact, one of the highest in the country, and is computed like this: the property’s assessed value multiplied by the local property tax rate. The tax rates are set by local governments, and they vary from location to location. Local assessors, meanwhile, are tasked to assess every property in-state (except in New York City and Nassau County) at a uniform percentage of market value — determined by the local assessor’s office — annually. This means that your property tax this year will likely be different from that of next year, and the year after, and so on. The reason for this is that the uniform percentage of market value will likely vary from year to year. Even the tax rate might change from year to year as well, like what happened in 2017 in Mount Vernon. As reported here, Mount Vernon City Council adopted that year the city’s lowest budget. Yet they increased the property tax rate to 1.82% for that same fiscal year.
Still it should be noted that there are certain tax reliefs that can lower your property tax in New York. Those who use their homes as their primary residence, for instance, are entitled to an exemption. Senior citizens, veterans, and persons with disabilities (PWDs) also get exemptions. Owners of residential buildings, meanwhile, can gain tax abatements to ease the burden of high property taxes. The J-51 tax abatements are a prime example of this. The J-51 tax abatements article by Yoreevo states they were first made available way back in 1955, right after the city required all buildings to provide basic utilities such as central heating, indoor plumbing, and hot water. Response to the mandate was lukewarm, with landlords complaining that they didn’t have the money to add said utilities to their buildings. The J-51 tax abatements were born, with a simple premise: invest in improvements, and recoup the costs via tax breaks. Today, the J-51 tax abatements are incentivizing building improvements, and both landlords and tenants are benefiting — the former get lower property taxes, while the latter enjoy better amenities.
These tax breaks, clearly, are important nowadays for property owners in New York, especially in New York City. As stated already, New York has some of the highest property taxes in the U.S., and property taxes in the Big City are still rising “at an alarming rate”. The rise is particularly alarming when juxtaposed with the income of New Yorkers. Over the past decade, New York City’s property tax rate “has grown at triple the rate of New Yorkers’ incomes.” This means that property taxes are getting an increasingly larger portion of a homeowners’ income.
It’s quite unfortunate that property taxes in New York are so high, and it seems they are continuing to rise. At the very least, there are tax breaks, and the onus now is on property owners to take advantage of them.