How Do I Defend a PA School Property Tax Assessment Appeal?
What you should know for your PA School Property Tax Appeal
How can you defend your PA School Property Tax Assessment appeal? The simple answer: by being more prepared and understanding the rules of evidence and law. This comes with a basic understanding of the broken PA school property tax assessment system, as well as knowledge of what steps you can take to get started. Read on to learn more about how you can defend your PA school property tax assessment appeal from the Allegheny county tax appeal experts, Flaherty & Fardo LLC.
Understanding the Broken PA School Property Tax System
Why broken systems may lead you to appealing your property tax assessment
The school districts of Allegheny County are now filing assessment appeals against property owners who recently purchased their properties. The logic is that if the purchase price is higher than the current assessment, that the assessment should be raised. However, under the ‘base year’ system, that argument should fail. The test is still what the property was worth on January 1, 2002? What the property sold for in 2008 or 2009, should matter as much as what the property sold for in 1995 or 1996, (both are 6 and 7 years removed from the base year). Does that mean we are analyzing 12 -14 years of sales (1995-2009) for Allegheny County assessment appeals? Of course not.
How You Can Defend Your PA School Property Tax Appeal
Know what to expect at your PA School Property Tax Appeal
The reality is that the school districts hope that the property owners do not appear or appear by themselves. Why is this? Because property owners are at a severe disadvantage when they try to represent themselves for a variety of reasons:
- They do not the system, the rules of law, or the forum involved.
- They do not have the advantage of negotiating and litigating cases against the taxing entities previously.
- The lawyer for the school can cross-examine the property owner to actually make their case against the property owner.
Often, at the hearing, the school district is only prepared with a copy of the Deed showing the new price. Some school districts are obviously more prepared than others and will bring comparable sales. But a copy of the Deed SHOULD NOT meet the school’s burden of proof.
Example Cross Examination in a PA School Property Tax Appeal
How the legal process is stacked against you and what you should expect
If the homeowner appears, the school may cross-examine the homeowner, and use their testimony as evidence to increase the owner’s assessment. For Example, a school district lawyer may ask:
- Do you have a mortgage on your property? (How much?)
- Was there an appraisal performed?
- Have there been improvements to the property?
- New Kitchen? New appliances?
Depending on the property’s owners responses, the school district or taxing entity may actually have a better case with the property owner present than if the property owner would have simply stayed at home.
We are NOT advising anyone to stay at home or miss their hearing. However, understanding ‘burden of proof’ and understanding what the best evidence to submit is, does make a difference. Very rarely will we advise a property owner to attend the hearing, unless we believe it is necessary. There are trial strategies to PA school property tax appeals. For more information or a free consultation, get in contact with Flaherty & Fardo -- we’ll work to help you get the property tax assessment you deserve.