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Attorney Brian StahlMarch 30, 2017 - Attorney Brian Stahl - Property taxes can be very costly, especially for commercial and industrial properties. “If those taxes are based on inaccurate assessments, you could be paying thousands of dollars more than you should be,” says Attorney Brian Stahl, HKQ Law.

The Consolidated County Assessment Law governs the real estate assessment process in counties of the second class A through the eighth class. Several Pennsylvania counties are subject to distinctive statutory provisions regarding the assessment of real property, as well as to unique home rule charter and administrative code requirements. The Third Class City Code sets forth procedures relating to the assessment of real property for taxation purposes in cities of the third class.

Pennsylvania real estate tax rates typically vary between 1% and 2% of the property’s value, with counties collecting an average of 1.35% of a property's assessed fair market value as property tax per year. The assessment, which is conducted by county officials, is based on building value and the land or site value.

Market value has been defined by the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court as “the price a purchaser, willing but not obligated to buy, would pay an owner, willing but not obligated to sell, taking into consideration all uses to which the property is adapted and might in reason be applied.”

Taxpayers have a right to fair appraisals. A particular property should not be over-valued or under-valued in relation to similar properties within a specific geographic area. Pennsylvania has a constitutional requirement for uniformity of taxation. Since 1909, the courts have held that real estate is a taxable subject of one class and taxes must be uniform upon the same class of subjects.  A uniform assessment rate means that all properties in a county, whether residential, commercial, or industrial, will be assessed at the same ratio of assessed value to market value.

Re-assessments aren’t conducted on a frequent basis, so a current assessment may not reflect a decline in property value due to current market conditions.

The assessment law affords the right to any property owner or taxing district to annually appeal an assessment. Deadlines differ from county to county regarding the filing of appeals. Any appeals filed before the requisite deadline will generally affect the valuation of the property for local government fiscal years beginning on or after January 1st of the following year. Assessment appeals are conducted by a local board appointed to hear appeals (or in some smaller counties before the county commissioners). Decisions of local assessment appeal boards may be appealed to courts of common pleas. The common pleas courts’ decisions are further subject to an appeal to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.

The applellant bears the burden of proof for tax assessment appeals. To successfully challenge the assessment, you’ll need to establish at least one of the following facts:

  • The tax assessor relied on information that is incorrect or incomplete.
  • The tax assessor set the taxable value of your property higher than the taxable values of similar properties in your area.
  • The tax assessor assumed that the current market value of your home is higher than it actually is.

HKQ Law’s real estate lawyers can provide legal assistance with real estate tax assessment appeals and litigation for personal, commercial and industrial properties. HKQ Law also handles a full range of other real estate matters, including commercial and residential purchases and sales, development, zoning and land use planning, financing, and land leasing. Call the attorneys at HKQ Law to discuss tax assessment appeals and litigation. No fees for inquiries. (800)-760-1529, www.HKQLaw.com.