Everything You Need To Know About the Property Tax Assessment Appeal Process

By James M. Berent, Esq.
Bernstein-Burkley, P.C.

You may not be thinking about next year’s taxes, having just completed your taxes with the extended COVID-19 deadline this past July.

But it’s actually never too early to start thinking about taxes, especially when it comes to the possibility of lowering your real estate taxes through an assessment appeal. Due to COVID-19, property values may be impacted, with some property owners eligible for a reduced assessment.

But once you reach out to an attorney, what happens during the appeals process? Here’s everything you need to know about property tax assessment appeals.

How does the tax assessment appeal process work?

Each county in Pennsylvania has a specific tax assessment appeal deadline, and most tax appeals will include a first-level administrative hearing. During these hearings, a board of government officials will decide whether an adjustment to the property tax assessment value is necessary, based on evidence presented by an attorney. When a decision is reached, it’s final, unless you file an appeal of that decision to the respective Court of Common Pleas within the appropriate time frame.

When a property owner appeals a decision, they have to provide a certified appraisal report or share economic details about their property or properties, so that the taxing bodies, usually represented by their solicitors, have sufficient information about the property to reach a fair resolution. The taxing bodies need all of the proper information to put into an informed decision. In the majority of instances, the property owner and the taxing bodies are able to reach an agreement as to a fair assessed value.

But what happens if the property owner doesn’t agree to the value and both parties reach an impasse? In this case, the tax assessment appeal will go to a trial or evidentiary hearing where a judge will ultimately decide what the property’s value is based on evidence and testimony.

What establishes a value in a tax assessment appeal?

The property owner trying to adjust the assessed value has to prove that the assessed value needs to be changed. The best evidence as to the current market value of a property is a certified appraisal report. The appraisal report will utilize the following methods of valuation when estimating a value:

  1. Income approach
  2. Sales comparison approach
  3. Cost approach

Income approach

Most commercial properties will use the income approach, which looks at property as an investment. With this methodology, property owners will examine elements like income, costs, occupancy, and the risk of investment.

Sales comparison approach

This method compares the property in question to recent sales of other properties with similar features and characteristics and ultimately the effect all of the features have on the overall value of the property.

Cost approach

How much would it cost to build a duplicate piece of property? That’s what this method looks at, including the cost of land, cost of construction, and depreciation.

Contact Bernstein-Burkley, P.C.

Thinking of seeking a property tax appeal? Our Real Estate Law team can help. Reach out to Bernstein-Burkley, P.C., at (412) 456-8100 or email James Berent at jberent@bernsteinlaw.com

Written by Bernstein- Burkley, P.C. on August 4, 2020

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