Reducing Your Property Taxes
Dear Property Owners:
Q: What two events are undesirable yet inevitable?
A: (1) death, (2) receiving your annual property tax bills
There’s not much you can do about your mortality, but there is a way to lower your tax bills. As a property owner in Pennsylvania, you have an annual opportunity to reduce your tax bill, and tax bills for years to come, by appealing your property’s assessed value. It’s called a property tax assessment appeal. Simple enough, right? To be successful in a property tax assessment appeal, you just need to know a few basics for filing in Pennsylvania. Did we mention that for many of you the deadline to do so is Aug. 1? Let’s get started.
Step #1: Tax Bill Breakdown
When you get your tax bill, you’ll see your property’s assessed value, which is the basis for municipal, school district and county property taxes. What you owe annually (tax liability) is determined by multiplying the combined tax rate of the three taxing authorities (the millage) by your assessed value, then dividing by 1,000. Obviously, the lower your assessed value, the lower your annual tax liability will be.
Step #2: Calculating Assessed Value
To keep a fair assessed value, your county establishes a “base year,” the year of the most recent countywide assessment, and applies a “common level ratio,” a percentage determined by the State Tax Equalization Board (STEB). Find your county’s common level ratio on STEB’s Web site, www.steb.state.pa.us. Then multiply your common level ratio by your property’s current fair market value to determine your assessed value.
Step #3: Filing an Appeal
To challenge your property’s assessed value, you can file a property tax assessment appeal with your county’s tax assessment appeals board. The appeal must be filed before the deadline, which in most Southcentral Pennsylvania counties is either Aug. 1 or Sept. 1. Make a note in your calendar so you don’t miss these.
Step #4: Supporting Your Case
After your appeal is filed, a hearing is held before the county’s assessment appeals board, where you have the chance to present evidence regarding the value of your property. This can include testimony from you or your real estate appraiser, a written appraisal report and sale prices of similar properties.
Step #5: Reviewing the Outcome
Following the hearing, the board mails in its decision – the new assessed value for your property. Just beware that this could either be an increase or a decrease, so you should consider your chances for a decrease before you spend the time and money to file. If you’re unhappy with the board’s decision, you still have a chance to appeal it to your county’s Court of Common Pleas, and from there to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us: Ronald M. Lucas, Esq., 717-255-7352, firstname.lastname@example.org, and David J. Tshudy, Esq., 717-255-7381, email@example.com. We concentrate our practices in real estate matters at Stevens & Lee, and work side-by-side with Omni Realty Group.
Ronald M. Lucas, Esq. & David J. Tshudy, Esq.
Stevens & Lee
For Omni Realty Group
Note: This column is informational and does not constitute legal advice. Readers must not rely on this column in making decisions and should instead seek professional advice.