Assessment Appeals 101

Spring only officially began less than a week ago but, it’s not too early to start thinking about appealing your tax assessment.  Sure, you might think “the deadline for filing an appeal is still months away”…”there is plenty of time to work on the appeal in the Summer”…”geez, it’s not even Memorial Day, why worry about an appeal now?”  

Well, you would be surpized at how many people do begin thinking about their property tax appeal this early in the game.  It ususally occurs to folks when they receive their real estate tax bill in January and February. 

It’s this time of year that we receive hundreds of phone calls and emails from property owners who what to know if appealing their assessment is feasible.  One thing we’ve noticed is that many property owners have a fundamental misconception about their property taxes and how to go about appealing them. Most people think that they can appeal their taxes. Unfortunately, we can’t appeal our taxes. Sorry, folks, no such luck.

However, it is your right as a property owner to appeal your assessment. Your assessment is the underlying factor upon which your taxes are calculated. Given that most properties are taxed on an “ad valorem” basis, meaning the tax is based on the value of the real estate, your assessment should represent the current fair market value of your property.

Now, most counties in the Philadelphia metro region (including Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, Chester, Berks, Lehigh & Northampton) have not been reassessed in years (it’s very costly to do a countywide reassessment). What this means is that the assessments may present an inaccurate representation of current fair market value. Now, as a means of trying to keep the assessments current with the real estate market, equalization rations have been developed in an attempt to make the assessments echo the current market. These ratios don’t always succeed in reflecting the market, especially the turbulent markets of the past 3-4 years. As a result, the assessment of a given property may be over stated, which translates into taxes that may also be overstated.

So, it stands to reason, if real estate values are declining your assessment should mirror those declines…right? This is done by filing a tax assessment appeal with your county board of assessment. Along with filing the necessary appeal paperwork, it is your responsibility to demonstrate that the assessment does not reflect the current fair market value of your property. The best way to do this is to present an appraisal report to the board at the time of your hearing.

Appraisals should be completed by a state certified appraiser (or licensed appraiser depending on the state) who is familiar with your area. In Pennsylvania, for instance, only a certified appraiser can provide an appraisal of your property. Anything completed by someone other than an state certified appraiser is not an appraisal.  Real estate agents and brokers cannot provide appraisals in Pennsylvania.

The deadlines for filing a tax appeal are usually in Bucks, Delaware and Chester Counties August 1, 2010 and September 1, 2010 for Montgomery County.  If you reside in any other Pennsylvania counties, please check with your county tax assessor’s office to confirm your county’s deadline. Remember, if you miss the deadline, you miss the opportunity to appeal and will have to wait another year (paying the same high taxes).

For more information or to see if you are a candidate for tax assessment appeal, please contact The Coyle Group. 

Note:  Be sure to visit our site from time to time over the next few months as we present a series of posts that relate to Tax Assessment Appeals and property tax reduction.

The Coyle Group provides appraisals for tax assessment appeals in Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, Chester, Lehigh, Berks and Northampton Counties.  Call us at 215.836.5500 for more information.


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