December 14, 2021

NYREJ: Rising inflation should reduce property taxes, not increase them

Among the many fears that come with rising inflation is a concern that inflation will be another factor that will increase property taxes. However, if analyzed properly, inflation is actually a factor that should suppress property taxes, not increase them. This is due to the fact that most property sectors are experiencing stagnant or declining rents, yet inflation has increased virtually every line item in the expense category for owners. The resulting decrease in net operating income directly affects the property value for assessment purposes and, therefore, should result in a lower property tax amount.

Owners have been finding ways to manage higher expenses for almost two years now. Many property owners have only recently stabilized their new expense budgets in response to COVID and its variants. Now, after navigating historically difficult circumstances, property owners are being wacked with rapidly increasing inflation. 

Inflation decreased owner’s net operating income in just a short period of time and shows no sign of ceasing any time soon. Labor shortages have increased the cost of almost every service required to maintain and repair commercial properties. Supply chain issues have then further multiplied the impact of wage inflation. Even when the more expensive labor is available, the cost of raw materials has gone up exponentially. After laying out money for greater cleaning costs, lay out reconfigurations and countless dollars on PPE equipment, owners must now account for paying even more for management costs, maintenance costs, and skyrocketing amounts for capital expenditures. 

Just as property expense budgets are rising, so are municipal budgets. Increases to budgets have been tempered in the past by New York’s two-percent tax cap. The tax cap limits increases in the levy to two-percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. For years, low inflation was assisting owners by keeping the increases in budgets well below two-percent. Thus, the corresponding tax rate increases were much lower than if budgets were increasing at the full two-percent cited in the law. Now, we embark on a new period of time when inflation will be beyond two-percent, thus maximizing the amount budgets can increase. In addition, municipalities still retain the right to pierce the two-percent cap with a majority vote. 

A simple analysis would indicate that while budgets go up, so must property taxes. This is only true if all other factors remain equal. If COVID has taught us anything, it is that all property sectors were affected differently. Retail, office and hospitality were shut down, reopened and reinvented in the way many of these operations now run their businesses. These sectors bore the brunt of the COVID changes to property ownership and saw that reflected in their bottom line. The assessor’s formula, which determines the appropriate value for tax purposes, requires all these factors to be taken into consideration. When collections decline or remain the same, but inflation causes expenses to increase, this yields a lower value at which a property should be taxed. 

The other component that must be altered when analyzing a property in the new world is the risk associated with that investment. We are seeing investors flee for more consistent opportunities rather than navigate the ever-changing terrain of commercial real estate. Even those that stay in the real estate market, there is no doubt that an industrial building with high ceilings is currently a more straightforward investment than a retail strip center. This volatility in both the uncertainty in net income, as well as the market sector at large, must be captured in the form of a higher capitalization rate. This higher cap rate will then yield a lower assessment for tax purposes. 

Most experts are predicting that inflation is here at least for the immediate future. For some property owners, if inflation can be counteracted by correspondingly rising revenue, the impact can be combatted to a degree. However, for property sectors that have seen a decline in the desirability of their investment due to decreased net income, inflation is a devastating blow. Under these circumstances, a property owner cannot just grin and bear the higher tax rates. Owners must be ready to provide evidence to show that inflation does not impact all properties evenly. This proof will show that for their property, inflation has adversely impacted their bottom line. This negative impact can then be turned around to display that the inflation phenomenon compels a decrease in their assessment and tax burden under the assessor’s formula. 

Brad Cronin, Esq., and Sean Cronin, Esq., are partners at Cronin & Cronin Law Firm, PLLC, Mineola, N.Y. 

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Brad W. Cronin, Esq.

Brad W. Cronin is the founding Partner at Cronin & Cronin Law Firm. He has over 40 years of Legal Experience. Brad represents a cross section of many of the largest New York developers, property owners, national corporations, REITs and retail chains. He has extensive trial experience having successfully litigated and resolved high profile cases throughout New York State which has resulted in a number of landmark decisions in the field of Tax Certiorari. 


Over the years Brad’s reputation for honesty and integrity has led to long term relationships with municipal assessment officials. His expertise and extensive experience along with his reputation has resulted in some of the highest property tax reductions in New York State.


Brad has been selected as a Who’s Who of Long Island Business News for the past 7 years in the fields of Tax Certiorari law and Real Estate Law. Each year Long Island Business News honors business leaders whose creative approach to challenges and positive results help to make Long Island better.

For over 30 years Brad has earned the highest rating awarded by Martindale Hubbell in both competency and ethics in his field. This is an honor bestowed on him by his peers for his professional excellence.


Brad is a columnist for the New York Real Estate Journal’s “Ask the Expert” quarterly feature discussing current real property tax issues. Some issues addressed are Hurricane Sandy’s effect on property taxes, Nassau County’s Disputed Assessment Fund, emerging market trends, New York’s property tax rates, and how your purchase price can affect your taxes.

Brad has been an invited speaker and participant on various panels involving different subjects affecting tax certiorari and valuation of property such as condominiums, environmental contamination, and reviewing changes in the tax certiorari field. As a member of the Nassau and Suffolk Condemnation and Tax Certiorari committees, he has worked to implement changes to facilitate the timely resolution of commercial tax protests.

Brad currently serves as executive member of the steering committee and served as Co-President of the Long Island Real Estate Group for three years. This organization has supported various Long Island charities, as well as real estate related projects, educational real estate programs and networking events. He is Cofounder of the North Shore University Hospital Department of Medicine Leadership Circle Committee and serves on the Village of Plandome Planning Board.

Sean M. Cronin, Esq.

Sean M. Cronin is a founding partner at Cronin & Cronin Law Firm with over 20 years experience. He specializes in negotiating tax certiorari matters for prominent developers, national REITs and tenants in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties, as well as the five boroughs. He is responsible for successfully reducing the assessments, and thereby the real estate taxes, on many of the largest properties in New York State thanks to his expertise in property valuation issues and knowledge of market conditions and demographics. His clients include developers and owners of all property types, including office buildings, industrial buildings, shopping centers and retail locations, restaurants, apartment buildings and condominium complexes, golf courses and assisted living facilities. 


Sean is an Executive Board member and past Co-President of the Long Island Real Estate Group, a charitable organization created to support local communities.   He is an Executive Board Member of Vision Long Island which advances more livable, economically sustainable, and environmentally responsible growth on Long Island through Smart Growth.   Sean is an Advisory Board Member of the Viscardi Center and on the Board of Advisors of the Energeia Partnership. He is an active member of the Chaminade Lawyer’s Association and Real Estate Group as well as the Washington & Lee Alumni Association. 


Sean is featured regularly in the New York Real Estate Journal’s “Ask the Expert” section and has been quoted in various publications, including the Long Island Business News and Newsday. He has been recognized by the Long Island Business News as a “Who’s Who in Commercial Real Estate” multiple times, most recently in 2023 and by the Long Island Herald as the Top Tax Certiorari Attorney in 2023. 

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Our staff is knowledgeable in all areas related to property tax. We regularly consult with clients regarding purchasing a property or possible major construction by projecting future property taxes and values as well as aid in obtaining any exemptions they may be eligible for.
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