Municipalities are concerned about the rising costs of property tax objection procedures. More and more citizens are calling in commercial objection agencies for this purpose, which conduct such proceedings on their behalf. And that costs municipalities a lot of money. Because if such an agency succeeds, the municipality must pay a so-called court fee. These fees vary from case to case, from hundreds of euros to several thousand.
That is why municipalities are calling on citizens, if they object, to do so themselves and to ignore commercial agencies. Because if you object yourself, without a professional party, the municipality does not have to pay any legal costs.
‘Community money is flowing away’
Deventer is one of the municipalities making the call. “It just irritates me,” says Finance alderman Marcel Elferink. “We have to be careful with public money and that is now flowing away to those commercial parties.”
According to him, the fees for these agencies are also disproportionate to the tax reduction that a citizen can expect with a successful procedure. “The real estate tax is often about a few tens, and there are sometimes as much as 2000 euros in compensation for such an objection agency.”
According to the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG), those fees are also much too profitable for the small companies. “There is often a bulk, automated approach. One push of a button and the objection comes from the printer or goes directly to the municipality. That is not what the legislator had in mind when the amounts for legal costs were determined.”
The costs for municipalities consist not only of these allowances, but also of the time that civil servants spend on them. “The total costs of objection procedures may ultimately be three times as high as the fees,” says Ruud Kathmann of the Valuation Chamber, the supervisor of municipal property valuations.
“Municipalities are also increasingly saying: call first. If they find an error, they can quickly and easily arrange it,” says Kathmann. “Because if you enter a formal objection procedure, with such a desk and a hearing and so on, it takes much longer.” In addition to Deventer, Arnhem, Haarlem, Medemblik and Zwolle, among others, are calling on citizens to lodge an objection themselves.
The municipalities of Achtkarspelen and Tytsjerksteradiel made this do-it-yourself call:
WOZ value too high? Then object to your municipality!
“Commercial parties arose because municipalities did not take their citizens seriously,” says Dirk-Jan Wolfert of the Vastelastenbond in a response. His company conducts such objection procedures together with two consultancy firms. “Only if municipalities have not estimated it correctly and the WOZ has to be reduced, they have to pay compensation. If municipalities do their job well, there is nothing for agencies to earn.”
According to him, the advantage of consultancy firms is that they have specialists. “They know exactly how to file an objection.”
The Valuation Chamber has calculated that in 2021 municipalities had to pay 18 million euros in legal costs, compared to 12 million two years earlier.
Every year, about 3 percent of the WOZ decisions are objected to. And an increasing share of that goes through commercial agencies. In 2019 that was 36 percent, in 2022 it will already be 51 percent. On average, less than 40 percent of all objections are honored. And on average, the value of the house decreases by about 9 percent if an objection is accepted.
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