Categorized | Local Perspectives

COMMUNITY VOICE: Tax Appeals Fair Game!

I read with interest Ms. Maria Garcia’s comments regarding Mr. Joseph B. Vas’s tax appeal work with the local community.The article was titled “outrageous” and it was printed in the last community section of the Amboy Guardian. Ms. Garcia seems to be very critical of Mr. Vas (son of the former Mayor Vas) for doing nothing more than work as an attorney to make a living. Mr. Joseph B. Vas is an attorney and works on tax appeals. Generally, homeowners file their tax appeals on their own or can choose to have an attorney in the process.

Those who do choose their attorneys from advertisements, prior experiences or even word of mouth. Mr. Vas’s tax appeal advertisements are allowed under the First Amendment of the Constitution. There is nothing wrong with advertising, our Supreme Court has decided, and there are beneficiaries to that particular art, such as the Amboy Guardian itself.

Ms. Garcia indicates that she was inspired to write about it because she finds Mr. Vas’s letters misleading. She seems to find troubling that Mr. Vas’s is the son of the former mayor, the fact that Mr. Vas states in his letters that his services are free, the lack of notice in the letters that revaluation of the property was conducted when his father was mayor and various other conclusions that she seems to derive from her own rather faulty analysis, like Mr. Vas should work for free. It seems obvious that despite all of these concerns the top issue is the relation between Mr. Vas and the former Mayor Joseph Vas. It is rather unfortunate that people could be targeted for criticism when all they are doing is simply working only because they are related to someone who may have had a history in the past. It should not be. Mr. Vas’s letter clearly states that he charges a contingency fee for his services and that is totally proper to do. Lawyers work on contingency fees in many areas, personal injury, for instance, and have done so for many years. Of all the tax appeal solicitation letters received by Perth Amboy taxpayers, such as myself, not one of them so much as mentions when properties were reassessed in Perth Amboy or under whose administration. None of these letters were mentioned by Ms. Garcia or called “misleading.” Why then is Mr. Vas being singled out?

Incidentally, municipalities are supposed to reevaluate properties from time to time to ensure that properties are taxed based on a “full and fair” value. Reevaluations may be needed when properties in a municipality are “not being assessed at the same rate of true market value and/or are being assessed substantially below true market value.” If a revaluation has not taken place for 10 or more years, one may be needed. That was the case in Perth Amboy in 2006. At the time, property values were only assessed at a fraction of value and as a result

assessments were not likely based on a fair or accurate market value. The reevaluation is not the reason for properties being over assessed, instead, it is a reflection of the housing crisis that hunts the entire country. No one, not even the former mayor could have possibly suspected the bottom would fall out from the housing market as it did and when it did.

That’s why residential taxpayers and corporate ones alike are filing appeals. Corporate taxpayers like Chevron and Westminster have received sizeable reductions. This fact, which was pointed out in Mr. Vas’s letter of advertisement, was not only accurate but also documents the market differences from 2006 to 2012.

Many legal matters can be handled without an attorney but everyone has a right to seek counsel. Mr. Vas’s letter neither states nor implies that you have to have an attorney to proceed with a tax appeal.

The fact remains that, for many people, proceeding on their own may not be an option, while for others it may be the best option. I find nothing misleading or outrageous about Mr. Vas’s letters. What is outrageous is that someone finds the need to project their own obvious personal anger towards former Mayor Joseph Vas onto his son.

It’s a shame that he be criticized for the name he bears and not for the merits of his conduct. Joseph B. Vas has the rights to free speech, to work as an attorney in New Jersey where he has earned a degree and most especially in the town where he was born and raised. Ms. Garcia’s personal attacks are the only outrageous things here.

—Eraldes E. Cabrera, Esq.

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