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The tax assessment appeal process can be confusing, especially since rules differ between Pennsylvania counties.
What is a Tax Assessment Appeal?
Any tax payer has the right to appeal to the County Board of Assessment Appeals if the property is over-assessed or receiving an Interim Assessment. The Tax Assessment Appeal Board’s sole responsibility is to determine the fair market value of the property. For the last 15 years or so, school districts have also been appealing the assessment of individual properties that they believe are under-assessed. Originally, most school district appeals resulted from a “triggering event”. However, school districts began filing appeals for properties where there was no triggering event, but where it was believe the property was under-assessed.
Tax Assessment Appeal Process
The deadline to file a general application for an appeal of a tax assessment or application for tax exemption (non-profits) varies by County. In Pennsylvania, filing deadlines can be no earlier than August 1. Both Lehigh County and Northampton County are August 1, as are most surrounding counties, but some other nearby counties are later, such as Berks County (August 15) as well as Carbon and Schuylkill Counties (September 1). Most counties will accept applications at any time, but will not hear appeals until the fall, after the application deadline. Exceptions to this rule include Berks County that only accepts applications between July 1 and August 15, and Lackawanna County that only accepts applications between April 1 and September 1. It is important to note that an application must actually be received by the Board of Assessment Appeals by the filing deadline. A postmark is not sufficient for application submission.
For interim appeals, the deadline is based on the date of the notice of the change in assessment. Generally, appeals from interim assessments are 40 days from the date of that notice, but it is important that individuals double-check the language in the notice they received to confirm this.
Pennsylvania counties vary greatly with regard to fees for filing tax assessment appeals. For example, in Lehigh County, there is no filing fee, but in Northampton County, there is a $25 residential fee and a $250 commercial or exemption, and a $100 class action fee. In those Counties with a fee, the fee applies for each tax parcel that is part of the appeal, not the appeal as a whole.
In general, an appraisal does not need to be submitted with the application for a tax assessment appeal. The general rule is to submit the appraisal and any other materials at least 10 days prior to the hearing. In Luzerne County, filers do not need to submit an appraisal with their application but they must designate at the time of the filing whether or not an appraisal will be submitted. It is important to note that a number of Pennsylvania counties require an appraisal for all commercial or industrial appeals.
Some counties require income and expense statements and rent rolls for all income producing properties, either with the appeal application or at the hearing, depending on the county. Certain counties also require a current photo of the property to be submitted with the application.
In Pennsylvania, all appeals must be heard no later than October 31 and notice of hearing date and time must be mailed at least 20 days prior to the hearing under state law. There are county-specific rules regarding requests to reschedule hearings. Some counties do not allow rescheduling for any reason while others require requests to be made a certain number of days in advance. Some counties do not allow rescheduling but ask that you provide dates that you are unavailable at the time you file an application. Certain counties charge a fee for rescheduling while some do not.
Under Pennsylvania law, notice of the decision must be provided no later than November 15. Property owners have 30 days to appeal the decision to court. A tax assessment may decrease, increase, or remain unchanged as a result of an appeal. The new assessment will go into effect on January 1 of the following year. This applies to both standard appeals and requests for tax exemption. It is important to note that tax assessments ARE NOT retroactive to the time of property purchase.
For example, if you purchase a property in September 2017, you cannot have an appeal heard until Fall 2018 and the exemption will not go into effect until January 2019.
Attorney Jack Gross represents residential and commercial property owners in tax assessment appeals and has done so in several Eastern Pennsylvania counties. For more information, call 610.820.5450.