Property Tax Assessment Appeals
As a homeowner in Pennsylvania, you are required to pay property taxes. Although no one particularly enjoys paying taxes, they do help to provide important services like schools, roads, and hospitals. You should not have to pay more than your fair share of taxes. This is where property tax assessment appeals can help.
What is a Tax Assessment Appeal?
A tax assessment appeal is an appeal that you can file if you believe that the value of your property has been incorrectly assessed. Your tax assessment should accurately reflect the value of your real estate property per the current market value. If your assessment is too high, it can result in taxes that are too high.
Before filing an appeal, you must be able to prove one of three things:
- The estimated market value of your property is too high or too low when compared to the current market;
- The estimated market value of your property is not uniform with comparable properties around the area; and
- The assessment includes substantially incorrect details about your property that impact its value.
Who can file an appeal?
In Pennsylvania, any taxpayer or aggrieved party has the right to appeal their assessment to the County Board of Assessment Appeals. An aggrieved party may include:
- an owner of record
- an equitable owner
- a mortgagee
- a tenant responsible for paying all or part of the real estate taxes
- a tenant responsible for paying all or part of the use and occupancy taxes.
You may file your own appeal application, or you may appoint someone to do it for you, like an attorney or an authorized representative. If someone other than you is filing, you must include a Power of Attorney or Agent Authorization form along with your application.
Why file a tax assessment appeal?
Even though a successful appeal can result in lower taxes, few people actually take advantage of the appeal process. In most cases, people who do choose to appeal their property tax assessment do so in an attempt to lower the amount of property taxes owed.
There are a number of factors that can impact a property’s assessment. Some of those factors include:
- How often your local tax assessor chooses to assess properties
- Changes in the real estate market
- Unemployment rates and interest rates
- Zoning and property distribution in your area
- Major improvements or renovations to your home
- Changes in government policies
- Constitutional arguments from both the state and federal constitutions
If you have noticed a sudden shift in your property taxes, call Cornerstone Law Firm. We can review your case and help you determine whether or not filing an assessment appeal is right for you.
The Tax Assessment Appeal Process
Form the Appeal
When you decide to file an assessment appeal, you should start by gathering information that shows that your assessment is incorrect. A good place to start is by comparing your assessment to that of similar local properties. To do this, you can:
- work with a real estate agent;
- ask your neighbors about their assessments;
- check out properties that have been sold in your area recently; or
- hire a certified appraiser to evaluate your property.
By gathering this information, you will have a good foundation to prove that your assessment is too high. Although some of the options listed above (like hiring an appraiser) can add a cost to your appeal process, a successful appeal will, in most cases, still save you more money than you spend.
File the Appeal
Once you have gathered sufficient evidence to support your appeal, you can file your assessment appeal with your county’s board. Although some counties may differ in their appeal process, most will require a small filing fee (typically no more than $50). You will then submit the appeal application and your supporting evidence to the board.
Assessment appeals often have tight deadlines and, in Pennsylvania, those deadlines vary depending on the county. In most cases, you’ll have 30 to 45 days from the receipt of your assessment to file your appeal. Most counties will accept an appeal application at any time, but they typically won’t schedule a hearing until the fall. After submitting your appeal (and after having a hearing), you may not receive a final decision for several months or even a year.
The Appeal Decision
It may take some time to hear the decision on your appeal. If it is approved, your assessment will be lowered and this will, in turn, lower your property taxes as well.
If the lowered assessment doesn’t help enough, or if your appeal is denied, there are other alternatives you can pursue to lower your taxes. Property tax exemptions exist, and you may qualify for one or more of them, so be sure to research those as another means to lower your taxes.
How often should you file an assessment appeal?
Because taxes are due every year, you may be asking “Do I need to file a tax assessment appeal every year too?” Generally speaking, property reassessments are done every year or every other year. In some cases, there may be a larger gap of time between reassessments. You can file an appeal every time you receive a new assessment, though you should not feel as though you have to.
In some cases, filing an assessment appeal may result in raising your assessment instead of lowering it. Certain information, like a finished basement or a newly installed pool, that were not included in the original assessment may impact the new assessment. This does not happen often, but it can happen.
If your assessment appeal is successful and your assessment is lowered, this will likely also lower your taxes for the current year and future years as well. It’s important to note, however, that you cannot receive a refund for taxes paid in previous years even if your assessment was found to be too high.