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Marconi Mystic Island Marina, Inc. v. Little Egg Harbor Township

A-111-01T2 and A-112-01T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2003) (Unpublished)

TAXATION—A taxpayer can’t present only evidence of sales of similarly used properties as proof that a municipal assessment is incorrect because the sales may have been forced sales and an explanation as to the comparability of the selected properties is needed to overcome the presumption that the tax assessor is correct.

A taxpayer owning two parcels of property filed tax appeals with the county board of taxation and received no relief. It then filed a complaint in the Tax Court. Following a trial, that court affirmed the county board’s judgment because the taxpayer “failed to overcome the presumption of correctness of the original assessment.” On appeal, the taxpayer contended the lower court “should have considered two sales of marina property in the township as evidence of value and that the trial erred in holding that expert testimony is required to overcome the presumption of correctness.” The Appellate Division disagreed with the taxpayer. It pointed out that original assessment and the county tax board judgment are entitled to a presumption of correctness because “it is to be presumed that governmental authority has been exercised and in accordance with law.” Such a presumption “may be rebutted only by cogent evidence.” This evidence must be “definite, positive and certain in quality and quantity.” The Appellate Division found “the property owner did not overcome the presumption of correctness.” The taxpayer’s testimony regarding the value of the property “was based on [an] acquisition price at a bankruptcy sale and unsupported opinion as to value.” The amount paid at a forced sale does not provide competent evidence of value of property on the open market. The testimony did not even provide an oral explanation of the value of the property and the taxpayer did not establish that the other property transactions were comparable sites. In essence, the taxpayer’s testimony was “no more than a personal opinion of value, the functional equivalent of a net opinion, and properly rejected.”

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