143 N.J.L.J. 542
February 12, 1996
5 N.J.L. 297
February 12, 1996
SUPPLEMENT TO OPINION 25
Property Tax Appeal Consultants
In Opinion 25, 130 N.J.L.J. 115 (1992), the Committee
addressed the issue of whether a property tax consultant could
solicit a residential property owner to enter into a contingent fee
arrangement whereby the consultant would, on the property owner's
behalf, prepare and file a tax appeal and, if necessary, retain an
attorney for the prosecution of the appeal before the county tax
board. The Committee concluded that such conduct would constitute
the unauthorized practice of law.
The Committee's holding was based upon the well-established principle that appearances before county tax boards are quasi- judicial in nature, requiring the services of an attorney, and that the rules governing such boards permit only members of the New Jersey bar to prosecute appeals before them in a representative capacity. Stack v. P.G. Garage, Inc., 7 N.J. 118, 121 (1951). Reference was also made to RPC 5.5(b) which provides that a lawyer shall not assist a person who is not a member of the bar in the performance of an activity that constitutes the unauthorized practice of law. Reading these authorities together, the Committee held that where a layperson or entity contracts with a property owner to obtain a reduction in real estate taxes which necessitates appeal to a county tax board, and, therefore, the services of an attorney, that person or entity is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, Stack v. P.G. Garage, Inc., supra, 7 N.J. at 121, and any attorney assisting that person or entity in the prosecution of such an appeal is assisting the unauthorized practice of law.
Unfortunately, Opinion 25 has not in any way deterred tax consultants from continuing to engage in these activities. The number of grievances filed against them continues to grow.
It is the Committee's understanding that the tax consultants have relied upon the words "or agent" in N.J.A.C. 18:12a-1.6(D) to continue to represent taxpayers on appeals to the county tax board. This administrative code regulation provided, in pertinent part, that,
A petition of appeal shall not be accepted for filing by the board unless the petition is duly signed and sworn to or certified by the taxpayer, his attorney or agent, unless the petition contains an affirmation by the taxpayer, or in the case of an appeal by a taxing district, unless the petition is accompanied by a certified copy of a resolution of a governing body of the taxing district authorizing the appeal. (Emphasis added).
However, effective September 5, 1995, N.J.A.C. 18:12-a-1.6(D)
was amended by the Division of Taxation. The sentence quoted above
was deleted and replaced with the following provision:
A petition of appeal filed with the board shall be
duly signed by the taxpayer's attorney or, in cases of
extreme hardship which shall include old age, illiteracy
and the like, by an agent of the taxpayer who is either
a family member or resident caregiver. In the case of an
appeal by a taxing district, the petition of appeal shall
be accompanied by a certified copy of a resolution of a
governing body of the taxing district authorizing the
27 N.J.R. 3380 (Emphasis supplied).