Challenging A Property Tax Assessment
Challenging Your Property Tax Assessment in Pennsylvania
Black and Davison
In Pennsylvania, all property owners pay a tax based on the value of the property, but the amount can vary from county to county. The amount can change from year to year, and can often change dramatically, based on a couple factors. There are ways, though that you can challenge the amount of your assessment.
Understanding How Your Tax Assessment is Calculated
The first thing you need to do, in order to legally challenge an assessment, is understand how your tax bill was calculated. Pennsylvania uses two different factors to calculate how much you owe in property tax: the applicable tax rate and the assessed value of your home.
The tax rate is set by local officials, so will vary, based on where you live. There’s little you can do to change the applicable tax rate, other than contact your elected officials or vote for officials who promise to keep tax rates low.
The taxable value of your home, though, may be subject to challenge. This dollar amount is determined by a local official, known as the tax assessor. The assessed value is generally some percentage of the fair market value of your home—what you would be able to sell it for to a willing buyer. The applicable percentage can vary from community to community, and the assessor’s determination of value can be based on a wide variety of factors, some of which may be disputed. It’s not uncommon for assessors to make mistakes regarding the classification of your home, or with respect to the physical features of your property, so a good starting place is to check your tax assessor’s office and confirm that the tax record is accurate. Here are some items to confirm:
- Did the assessor properly classify your home as residential?
- Does the tax record show the correct number of bathrooms, bedrooms and other spaces?
- Is the square footage correct?
- Are there improvements listed that you did not make?
- Does the record reflect any property defects?
- Are the age and purchase price accurate?