Monday, March 03, 2008

NY Property Tax Refund

Well, here's the best thing that happened to me this weekend: I got a check in the mail for $4298.75 from the NYC Department of Finance. This is the refund I was hoping to get, of the property taxes I paid before the abatement went through.
I have to say, I've found this whole process really bizarre. Here's basically how it went:

Fall 2005: I close on my condo, during the last stages of which there is confusion over how much property tax I'll be paying. That turns out to be because they think my condo is the whole building because the individual tax lots haven't been set up. This gets straightened out and at the closing, it is made clear that the escrow amount with my mortgage should be less. It's also explained that the property tax abatement hasn't been finalized yet, but that it should happen within the next few months and everything will be adjusted then.

Fall 2005-Jan 2008: The property tax abatement hasn't gone into effect yet, so I'm paying much higher property taxes than I'd expected. On top of this, my mortgage company predicts further increases and raises the amount I have to pay into escrow, and sends me a notice saying I have to pay an extra lump sum on top of that to make up for shortfalls and avoid being charged interest on the shortfall.

Jan. 2008: I get a notice from New York City of my property value, showing an adjustment that brings my taxable value down by about 97%. Whoopee, I think, this must be the abatement, finally! But what now? Do I get the overpayment back? How do I get it?
Meanwhile, I wanted to make sure my escrow issue was straightened out. I called my mortgage bank and a very nice lady understood immediately what I was asking, and said all I had to do was fax in a letter requesting an adjustment and attaching a printout of the web page showing my new lower tax bill. She said they might even be able to put the adjustment through before my next mortgage statement arrived-- pretty painless!

Feb. 2008: I was talking to one of my neighbors, who said she had already gotten her refund. "You just go online," she said. "There's a form where you request a refund." I did some checking around via ACRIS, the online city information center, and found the application page for refunds. I tried to look at my quarterly statement of account to see if there was actually a credit balance, but the website always timed out. I looked at my recent payments and didn't see any adjustments made for credits. I could also see my next property tax bill reflecting the lower amount due, but it didn't mention any credits from previous overpayments either.
This seemed weird-- how was I supposed to ask for a refund if there was no acknowledgment that the city even owed me money? I just imagined things going into some black hole where I'd be told my account balance was zero so there was nothing to refund. I tried calling one of the phone numbers they give you, but of course I was just put on hold and referred back to the website.
I even checked my neighbors' property tax records to see if it showed them getting a refund-- no sign of it. But I went back to the refund form and filled it in anyway-- it doesn't even ask you for the amount you're requesting. You just give them your address and block and lot numbers, and that's it. I hit "send" and figured I'd forget it for a few weeks and then have to follow up and trace the whole thing through some bureaucratic nightmare.

March 2008: The aforementioned refund check arrives! It was in an envelope with a slip of paper saying, basically, "here's the property tax refund you requested." There was no statement accounting for the amount, and no other explanation. The amount I received was slightly less than the full amount of property taxes I paid last year. But it's not quite enough to account for taxes I will already have paid for this year. I think. I can't figure out how they arrived at that exact number, so maybe in a few months I will go online and apply for another refund, just for the heck of it, to make sure I'm not owed any more! But all in all, I was just so happy to get that money-- it was so much easier than I thought it would be! I had a friend over when I opened the envelope and the whole evening, I kept saying "wow, I can't believe they just sent me this money so quickly and easily! Wow. Wow!"
Now I just have to see how my next mortgage statement looks and what my new escrow amount is. This should really help my monthly cash flow, and March should be a great month for my net worth, regardless of stock market woes!


Noel Larson said...

Bizarre...Mine was weird this year as well as I got my notice and it was less than expected...then two weeks later I got a supplemental, because my neighbor complained his was more then me... :(

Juicy part or debt?

Anonymous said...

Can you please tell me which form did you use to get your refund ? thanks