Town of Cortland, NY

Currently:
June 28, 2017
6:28 PM

Tax Receiver  
Frequently Asked Questions  
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   How Property Tax Works
      - What Is the Property Tax?
      - What Determines the Amount of a Property Tax Bill?
      - What Kind of Property Is Assessed?
      - What Is an Assessment?
      - How Do I Know If My Assessment Is Right?
      - What Determines the Tax Rate?
      - How Is My Tax Bill Figured?
      - What Else May Occur Before the Tax Rate Is Final?
      - What Makes My Tax Bill Change?
 
   Tax Receiver
      - I never received my tax bill, or received it late, do I still have to pay the penalty?
      - If I mail my tax payment on the due date do I have to pay a penalty?
      - If the due date falls on the weekend may I pay my taxes without penalty on the next business day?
      - Can I pre-pay my taxes?
 


    How Property Tax Works
          What Is the Property Tax?


The real property tax is a tax based on the value of real property. Counties, cities, towns, villages, and school districts, each raise money through the real property tax. The money funds schools, pays for police and fire protection, maintains roads, and funds other municipal services enjoyed by residents.



          What Determines the Amount of a Property Tax Bill?


The amount of a particular property’s tax bill is determined by two things: the property’s taxable assessment and the tax rates of the taxing jurisdictions in which the property is located. The tax rate is determined by the amount of the tax levy to be raised from all, or part, of an assessing unit, and the unit’s taxable assessed value. The assessment is determined by the assessor and is based on the value of the property less any applicable property tax exemptions.



          What Kind of Property Is Assessed?


Every parcel of real property in an assessing unit, no matter how big or how small, is assessed. Real property is defined as land and any permanent structures attached to it. Examples of real property are houses, gas stations, office buildings, vacant land, shopping centers, saleable natural resources (e.g. oil, gas, timber), farms, apartments, factories, restaurants, and, in most instances, mobile homes.

 

Though all real property in an assessing unit is assessed, not all of it is taxable. Some, such as religious or government owned property are completely exempt from paying property taxes. Others are partially exempt, such as veterans who qualify for an exemption on part of the property tax on their homes.



          What Is an Assessment?


A Property’s assessment is a percentage of its market value. Market value is how much a property would sell for under normal conditions. Assessments are determined by the assessor, an appointed local official who independently estimates the value or 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.

Once the assessor estimates the value of a property, its total assessment is calculated. New York State law provides that every property in most municipalities be assessed at a uniform percentage of value. That percentage can be five percent, ten percent, fifty percent, or any other percentage not exceeding 100 percent. It does dot 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 less 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


          How Do I Know If My Assessment Is Right?


It is up to individual property owners to monitor their own assessments.  Taxpayers should bring any questions about assessments to the assessor before the tentative roll is established (contact your assessor for the tentative roll date).  In an informal setting the assessor can explain how the assessment was determined and the rationale behind it.

 

Assessors are interested only in fairly assessing property in their assessing unit.  If your assessment is correct and your tax bill still seems too high, the assessor cannot change that.  Complaints to the assessor must be about how your property is assessed.

 

Informal meetings with the assessors to resolve assessment questions about the next assessment roll can take place throughout the year.  If, after speaking with your assessor, you still feel you are unfairly assessed, ask for the booklet, How to File a Complaint on Your Assessment.  It describes how to make a case for an assessment reduction to the Board of Assessment Review, provides the instructions for filing a complaint, and indicates the time of year it can be done.



          What Determines the Tax Rate?


The tax rate is determined by the amount of the tax levy.  There are several steps involved in determining the tax levy.  First, the taxing jurisdiction (a school district, town, county, etc.) develops and adopts a budget.  Revenue from all sources other than the property tax (State aid, sales tax revenue, user fees, etc.) is determined.  These revenues are subtracted from the original budget and the remainder becomes the tax levy.  It is the amount of the tax levy that is raised through the property tax.



          How Is My Tax Bill Figured?


Remember that the real property tax is an ad valorem tax, or a tax based on the value of property.  Two owners of real property of equal value should pay the same amount in property taxes.  Also, the owner of more valuable property should pay more in taxes than the owner of less valuable property.

 

The property tax differs from the income tax and the sales tax because it does not depend on how much money you earn or on how much you spend.  It is based totally on how much the property you own is worth.

 

For example, if an assessor assesses property at 15 percent of value, a house and land with a market value of $100,000 would have an assessment of $15,000.  With no exemptions, this is the houses taxable assessed value.  This $15,000 is not the tax bill.  The tax bill for this house depends on the municipality’s tax rate.

 

The tax rate is determined by dividing the total amount of money that has to be raised from the property tax (the tax levy) by the taxable assessed value of taxable real property in a municipality.  If, for example, a town levy is $2,000,000, and the town has a taxable assessed value (the sum of the assessments of all taxable properties) of $40,000,000, the tax rate would be $50 for each $1,000 of taxable assessed value.

 

$2,000,000 / $40,000,000 = .05 x $1,000 = $50 (tax rate)

 

The town tax bill for this house with an assessment of $15,000 would be $750.  The $750 results from dividing the assessment of $15,000 by $1,000 to get $15 (because the tax rate is based on each $1,000 of assessed value).  Then, the $15 is multiplied by the tax rate to get the tax bill of $750.

 

$15,000 / $1,000 = $15 x $50 = $750 (tax bill)

 

As you can see, the size of the tax bill depends on both the assessment and the tax rate, which is based on the tax levy.



          What Else May Occur Before the Tax Rate Is Final?


There are times when tax rates cannot be set until the tax levy is apportioned, or divided, among various municipalities.  Apportionment occurs if parts of a school district, or special district, exist in more than one city or town.  Taxes are apportioned so that the parts of the district in the different municipalities each pay their fair share of the district tax levy.

 

The county tax levy also is apportioned among the towns and cities in the county.  This is so that cities and towns will each pay their fair share of the county tax levy.



          What Makes My Tax Bill Change?


Tax bills increase for one or more of the following reasons: bigger budgets are adopted, revenue from sources other than the property tax shrinks, the taxable assessed value of the assessing unit changes, or the tax levy is apportioned differently.

 

Taxpayers unhappy with growing property tax bills should not concern themselves just with assessments.  They also should examine the scope of the budgets and expenditures of the taxing jurisdictions (counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts, etc.) and address those issues in the appropriate available forums, such as meetings of the state, county, or town, and school boards.



 
    Tax Receiver
          I never received my tax bill, or received it late, do I still have to pay the penalty?

Yes, the failure to mail a statement or the failure of a property owner to receive a statement will not affect the validity of the taxes or interest prescribed by law (New York State Real Property Tax Law section 922). In addition, neither the Receiver of Taxes nor any other official have legal authority to waive statutory penalty charges. These are fixed by the Real Property Tax Law.



          If I mail my tax payment on the due date do I have to pay a penalty?

Real Property Tax Law, section 925 provides as follows:

‘Payment of taxes by mail, when enclosed in a postpaid envelope properly addressed to the appropriate collecting officer and is deposited in a post office or official depository under the exclusive care and custody of the United States Post Office shall, upon delivery, be deemed to have been made to such officer on the date of the United States Postmark on such wrapper. The provision of this section shall not apply in the case of postmarks not made by the United States Post Office. A postage meter postmark is not a postmark made by the United States Post Office, and therefore, is not within in the provisions of Real Property Tax Law section 925. Payments cannot be deemed timely because of a postage meter postmark date on an envelope containing a tax payment (Op. New York State Comp. 69-170).

If taxes are not received until after the due date, they are not paid until after the due date unless they fall squarely within the provisions of section 925 of the Real Property Tax Law, and the penalty must be added and collected. No Town official or employee can waive the penalty(Op.State Compt. 68-626).


          If the due date falls on the weekend may I pay my taxes without penalty on the next business day?

Real Property Tax Law, section 925-a expressly covers such a situation by providing as follows:

“Extension of time for collection, not withstanding any contrary provision of this chapter, or any general, special or local law, code or charter, if the final date for collection of taxes, or for the collection of taxes without penalty, or for the collection of taxes at a lesser prescribed penalty interest rate shall fall on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday, an extension for the collection of taxes shall automatically be in effect until the first business day following such date and the date for paying over taxes shall be extended to the following day.”

In connection with tax payments, the State Comptroller has held that if a tax due date falls on a Saturday, or on a Sunday or on a public holiday, payments may be made on the following business day without additional charge(See Op.State Compt. 67-566).



          Can I pre-pay my taxes?

No, the tax warrant constitutes the mantle of authority for the collecting officer to receive the taxes. Therefore, the warrant must be regarded as the instrument that empowers the collecting officer to begin the collection duties with respect to real property taxes listed in the tax roll. 


 



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