Merging properties to save on taxes: When does it make sense?

Once property owners are satisfied that their assessment is correct and based on accurate data, they may want to figure ways to reduce that tax bill.

Assessor Murdock said one strategy she’s been asked about is that of merging adjacent properties into a single parcel. Will that reduce taxes? The short answer is yes, Murdock said.

“It depends on the properties, but generally when you have contiguous parcels that are individually described, you start with a higher value on each of those parcels,” she said.

“For instance, if you had two properties that were waterfront, each of those parcels would start out with a high value for the waterfront, then diminish as your footage increases.”

Merging the properties would change that assessment formula, she said.You’d start with a single high value with everything diminishing beyond that.

“That’s true with off-water parcels too,” Murdock said.

“If you had two parcels contiguous to one another, and one of them had a house on it, you’re going to start out with a high value for the primary segment of the parcel, which is the part of the parcel that’s required for the house and its infrastructure,” she said.

Anything beyond that acre would be valued at a lower “residual” rate, she said.

“Now, if you have a parcel next door to it that isn’t developed— but could be—you would start with the first acre classified as ‘undeveloped.’ Anything beyond that first acre would be residual.”

This might be an attractive scenario for merging, she said.

“If you were to merge those two parcels, you would start with one primary acre and eliminate the undeveloped completely, then go straight to residual,” Murdock said.

“Primary” is the highest value classification, of course, followed by “undeveloped.”

“‘Residual’—land in excess of an acre—is substantially lower,” Murdock said.

“[The idea] is to eliminate some of the assessed value,” she said. “That in turn would likely correlate to a lower tax bill.”

But make sure you check with the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) first, advises Murdock, especially if you plan to re-subdivide later.

“As far as [the Town of Webb]  is concerned, if there are two separate deeds for two parcels, they can be merged and at a subsequent time, subdivided,” she said.

But the APA may not hold the same position.

“I know some people who said they once merged their parcels, but were not allowed to subdivide them,” Murdock said.

“So I would recommend before making the decision to merge that [a property owner] contact the APA to discuss whether they could subdivide at some point in the future.”

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