Residential Tax Assessment Appeals
Homeowners in Pennsylvania are required to pay annual property taxes. Their tax liability depends on the assessed value of the property and the tax rate in that area. If there are errors in the assessment of the property, homeowners may be paying more in taxes than they should be. The National Taxpayers Union estimates that 60 percent of properties are overvalued. In Pennsylvania, property owners can challenge the assessment of their property value.
How Properties are Taxed
Property value is determined by the county tax assessor, who determines the taxable value of a person’s home based on its actual value, or the amount that it might sell for. There are several factors that can impact a property’s value, including:
- Size of the home and surrounding lot
- Number of bedrooms and bathrooms in the home
- When the home was built
- Improvements that have been made since construction
- Amenities such as pools, additions, or finished basements
- Defects in the home, such as leaks
- Purchase price
- Market rate for similar properties in the area
The tax rate, or assessment ratio, is set by the Pennsylvania State Tax Equalization Board every year. The rate is non-negotiable and varies from county to county, though it can never exceed 100 percent. The assessment ratio determines how much a property owner is taxed, depending on the value of the property. For example, if a home is valued at $400,000 and the ratio is $10 for every $1,000 of taxable value, the homeowner’s annual taxes would be $4,000.
Ensuring the Correct Property Value
If a homeowner suspects that their home is overvalued, the first step to filing an appeal is to thoroughly inspect their assessment letter. The record may contain errors, such as improperly classifying the property or inaccurate information on the features of the home. All mistakes should be reported to the tax assessor so that the tax record for the property can be corrected. If the homeowner qualifies for any tax breaks based on their age, disability, income, or military service, which are not listed in the report, the tax assessor should be notified of these as well. Most counties have a deadline when the assessment can be challenged, so it is important to review these details as soon as possible.
Comparing the taxable and actual values of similar homes in the area can also be a valuable tool in determining whether a home is overvalued. The tax assessor’s office can provide records on homes of comparable size and features, allowing homeowners to approximate what their taxable value should be. If the taxable value of their home is higher than average, or it is the same as another home that has more amenities, the homeowner has a strong argument for reducing their taxable value. Recent sales of homes in the area can provide insight on the actual value of the home, but only if the homes are comparable.
Filing an Appeal
If the issue cannot be corrected informally by the tax assessor, the homeowner will have to attend a hearing with the Board of Property Assessments Appeals and Review (BPAAR). The homeowner and taxing entity can both present evidence, but it is up to the filing party to prove that the value of the home should be changed. The hearing officer, who is a current or former real estate professional, will make a recommendation to the BPAAR. If either party does not agree with the recommendation, they can request a formal hearing with the Board of Viewers. If there is still a dispute, the case can be appealed to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, or even to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, though it is extremely rare in these types of cases.
Delaware County Real Estate Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Obtain Results for Property Owners
The appeals process for property valuation can be extremely complicated. The Delaware County real estate lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. have the knowledge and experience to guide homeowners through this process and obtain the best possible outcome. We will leave no stone unturned, ensuring that you receive every discount for which you qualify. With offices conveniently located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we represent clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County. Call us today at 610-565-3701 or contact us online for a free consultation.