Why You Need to Appeal Your Allegheny County Property Taxes NOW
Property tax specialist Nicole Amick talks about why right now may be the best time to appeal your Allegheny County property taxes
A property assessment is the value that is used to determine property taxes on your property. In Allegheny County, PA, the County is the government entity that determines the assessment for each property in Allegheny County. A property assessment can be appealed every single year in Allegheny County either by the property owner or any interested taxing jurisdiction.
Every property owner in Allegheny County, PA pays three (3) different property taxes, which are:
You can find your current Allegheny County assessment value, listed as “2022 Full Base Year Market Value”, at the County website here.
The County assessed value directly determines what your County tax, school district tax and local property tax will be every single calendar year. All three property taxes are calculated using the same County property assessment. Therefore, the lower your property assessment, the lower your property taxes.
From 2002 through 2012, Allegheny county utilized a 2002 base year. Beginning in 2012, the reassessment values reflected a 2012 base year, to be used for taxation purposes in the 2013 tax year moving forward. Your 2022 property assessment value should therefore reflect the fair market value of your property as of January 1, 2012. It is not known when the next Allegheny County Reassessment will occur.
Sometimes you will notice that there are two different property assessments listed on the Allegheny County website. The reason one of these is assessments is sometimes less, is that the county allows a ACT 50 - HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION of $18,000.00 if the property is your primary residence. If the Homestead Exemption application is filed, the property assessment will be $18,000.00 less for County tax purposes only. The school district and local property taxes will still be based on the full county assessed value.
Again, there are three (3) different property taxes (County, School and Local).
Allegheny County Property taxes are calculated by multiplying the county property assessment by the current millage rate for each specific taxing entity and then adding all three tax bills. The County millage rate for 2022 is 4.73. Each school district and local taxing entity (municipality/borough or township) sets their own specific millage rates each year.
Here is an EXAMPLE of how to calculate Allegheny County property taxes:
Let's assume Allegheny County issues a property assessed value of $100,000.
Next, you would multiply the $100,000 assessment times each specific millage rate.
In this example, a property assessed at $100,000 would pay a total of $2,973/year in property taxes. Typically, the school district millage rate is largest but not always. Most properties in Allegheny County pay a total of around 30 mills, or roughly $3,000 in total property taxes for every $100,000 a property is assessed at. This of course varies based on the millage rates and can be as lower as 22+/-mills and as high as as 55+/-mills. So depending on the location of the property the same $100,000 assessed property can pay as low as $2,200 in total property taxes or as high as $5,500 in total taxes.
For more information about the current municipality tax millage rates in Allegheny County - see the following:
The County tax millage is set by the Allegheny County Council. School district tax millages are set by local school boards. Municipal (local) tax millage rates are set by individual municipalities. The County millage rate is typically set by the end of each calendar year for the following year. The setting of millage rates for local taxes and school district taxes varies across the County, as some of these bodies operate on a calendar year, while others operate on a fiscal year. All millage rates are usually set by the end of June of any given year for the following year.
The 2012 Base Year is the year in which the last Allegheny County-wide reassessment occurred. Yes, it still matters because it means that all properties should be valued with an effective assessment value of January 1, 2012.
For 2022 taxation purposes (and for future years until the next reassessment), the base year is 2012. Therefore, for 2022 property appeals, all assessed values should represent the estimated base year market value of the property as of January 1, 2012.
This value (even under a 2012 Base Year) can be changed due to permits, appeals, property information corrections, flood loss or catastrophic loss. The goal of Base Year methodology is to allow similar homes to have similar assessments until the next County-wide reassessment. This is often questioned when school districts appeal only more recent sales, and can make determining current assessments more complicated the more time that elapses between reassessments.
For the 2012 reassessment, Allegheny County hired Tyler Technologies to conduct the most recent reassessment. Allegheny County Office of Property Assessment also hired County assessors to use a computer assisted mass appraisal system (CAMA) to help determine property assessment values.
The goal was to determine value primarily by comparison with sales from 2009, 2010 and 2011 on properties with similar characteristics within your defined neighborhood.
The assessment for your property could have changed from the original reassessment value based on tax appeals, building permits, or various exemptions which could apply to the property.
Current assessment values are NOT supposed to represent current market value.
Since we are using a 2012 Base Year, it is not as simple as answering: "What is your property worth?" Your property is NOT supposed to be assessed at 100% of current market value. To the contrary, the longer the time period that elapses from the 2012 Base Year, the lower the assessment should now be relative to actual market value. Most property owners are confused about the 2012 Base Year and how it can be used as an argument to lower property taxes.
There are several ways to argue that a commercial or residential property is now over-assessed. If you have any questions whether you can lower your property taxes, you should seek a free tax appeal consultation with our attorneys by emailing email@example.com.
The best way to lower your property tax bill is to lower your property assessment value. You can lower your property taxes in Allegheny County, PA by appealing and lowering your current property assessment value. The lower the property assessment, the lower the property taxes which are due.
Other options, outside of the tax appeal process can include applying and receiving an abatement or exemption. Allegheny County lists the Tax Abatements and Exemptions on the Allegheny County real estate website which include:
Property owners with a primary residence within the County are generally entitled to the Act 50 Homestead Exclusion tax abatement. If a property owner wishes to file for this Exclusion, they must file the appropriate paperwork by March 1st of that calendar year. In 2022, this Exclusion entitles property owners to a $18,000 reduction in their assessment value for County taxes only. To determine if your property already has this exemption, you can find this information on the County website or on your County tax bill.
Any property owner can appeal their property taxes every calendar year, if there is no pending tax appeal for the property.
Allegheny County tax appeal forms are also available during the relevant appeal period on the Allegheny County website here. Allegheny County property assessment appeal forms are also available in person on the third floor of the County Office Building at 542 Forbes Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, PA 15219.
You can check your property Allegheny County Assessment website to confirm receipt of your appeal form or Contact the Office of Property Assessments Public Information Line at 412-350-4600.
Be careful about confirming the status of your appeal online. Though the Allegheny County website does have an “appeal status” tab that will show if your appeal form has been processed, it is not always accurate. We always recommend that property owners send in two copies of the appeal form, and ask that a time-stamped copy be returned to them when it has been received by the Office of Property Assessments. This helps to protect the property owner down the road if there are any issues with the appeal form being misplaced or mishandled.
The appeal deadline for 2022 is March 31, 2022. An appeal filed in 2022 would constitute a 2022 appeal, and apply only to 2022 and year(s) moving forward. The 2022 appeal form must be postmarked by March 31, to be accepted for the 2022 tax year.
Allegheny County has an actual Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review (BPAAR) which typically meets every other Thursday at 8:00 am in Room 328 of the County Office Building at Forbes and Ross Streets in downtown Pittsburgh. You can view the Board Meeting Schedule online or call the Office of Property Assessments at (412) 350-4600 to ask when the next meeting is.
Hearings at the BPAAR are typically scheduled between April and September of every calendar year.
According to the Allegheny County website, the Office of Property Assessments will, “Send you advance notice of the hearing date 14 days for residential, 30 days for commercial."
If you are unable to attend the scheduled hearing, a postponement can be requested from the Office of Property Assessments. Postponement request forms can be found on the Allegheny County real estate website and must be sent at least 7 days prior to the listed hearing. Emergency requests to postpone may also be submitted, and must be sent to the Office of Property Assessments. All taxing bodies must also be made aware of this request by written notice. During the pandemic all hearings have been via telephone only, and parties have had to exchange information at least 5 days before the hearing occurs.
If you have questions about the timelines of an appeal form or a scheduled hearing date, you should call the Allegheny County Office of Property Assessment public information center. The staff is typically very helpful.
If you miss the hearing entirely, you would need to make a request directly with the Board of Property Assessments Appeals & Review (BPAAR) to have the hearing rescheduled. The Board of Property Assessment as described above would hear your request and either approve or deny your request. If the request for a rescheduled hearing is denied, you would then have the option of further appealing this decision to the General Motions Judge at the Court of Common Pleas. Call us with any questions 412.802.6666 if that happens and we would be happy to help guide you.
Yes. At least once. Call the Office of Property Assessment at 412-350-4600. You have "the right to postpone a scheduled assessment appeal hearing only once.” (Source Allegheny County Website). As stated, the employees at the Office of Property Assessments are typically very helpful in resolving any scheduling issues. You can find the official Postponement Request form on the Allegheny County Assessment webpage, which can then be faxed to the Office of Property Assessments. It is important to note that requests for postponement are typically required at least seven (7) days before the date of the hearing.
The type of evidence for a property tax appeal differs greatly on whether you are an owner appealing (appellant) or whether you are defending a tax appeal (appellee). Choosing which valuation method and valuation year is appropriate is crucial in the appeal process.
If you are a property owner appealing your property taxes, you must decide if you are arguing current market value or base year (2012) value. If a property owner is arguing base year (2012) value, then evidence of the value of the property in 2012 is relevant. However, if a property owner is arguing current market value, then evidence of the current market value is applied.
Here is a key difference. If a property owner is using current market value, that value should then be reduced by the common level ratio for each calendar year. The CLR (common level ratio) is simply a multiplier that is multiplied against the current market value to arrive at an actual base year value.
Basically, a property should not be assessed at 100% of its current market value under our current system. If a property owner believes their property is worth $100K, and their assessment is currently $100K, they can file an appeal. If they can prove their current market value is $100K, the CLR would apply to that value, and reduce the assessment accordingly. If the CLR is 85% for example, then a property currently worth $100K would appropriately be assessed at $85K.
The same is true for appeals filed by school districts. It would not be appropriately for a school district to argue that a property should be assessed at 100% of what a property just sold for.
Evidence for either a 2012 base year approach, or a current value approach (using the CLR), can include a variety of evidence including but not limited to the following:
The ultimate question for any tax appeal is focused primarily on what other sales and information suggest about the fair market value of the subject property, or the 2012 Base year if that is chosen. The property owner (or representative) is required to bring three (3) extra copies of their evidence so they can be distributed to all parties in attendance at the hearing (school district representative, etc.).
We believe yes. We believe that the best settlements and decisions are still more likely to be obtained by having experienced tax appeal attorneys represent the property owners.
If the school district has appealed your property assessment, we almost always recommend counsel because school attorneys cannot cross-examine us the same that they can property owners. We seldom have our clients attend the hearing, and especially in defense cases, there can be a distinct disadvantage of property owners attending and offering information that will likely be used against them in a second appeal of their case. Most of the tax appeal cases are appealed to the second level Board of Viewers, and property owners should be careful about what evidence they volunteer at the first level hearing.
At Flaherty Fardo, we analyze every case first to ensure that our efforts will justify the cost through increased tax savings. These cases can often involve significant tax consequences that will impact the property owner for various years into the future, and the costs of an attorney are often justified.
“Yes, you can decide to send another interested party provided they have an authorized representative form from you with your signature.” (Source Allegheny County Website). Authorized representatives can be anyone at the first level only (BPAAR). At the second level (BOV), only the property owner, interested party (i.e. tenant), or attorney may appear for a property.
Allegheny County tells property owners that “You are not required to attend an appeal filed on your property by your school district or municipality. However, you may attend the hearing to present evidence for your case if you so choose.”(Source Allegheny County Website). This is awful advice by the County.
Property owners need to be careful about representing themselves, if for no other reason other than the school district attorneys can cross-examine property owners about appraisals, mortgages, and improvements to the property, and then use that information later in the tax appeal process. This information from property owners is seldom helpful to recent home buyers and is directly used against property owners by the taxing entities to increase their property taxes. We believe a better approach is to have experienced tax appeal counsel representing the property owners who cannot be cross-examined or compelled to offer into evidence information that does not help the case.
Yes - almost all tax appeal cases go through a multiple appeal process (first the BPAAR and second the BOV).
You do NOT receive a decision at the time of your first level (BPAAR) hearing. The hearing officer makes a recommendation to the Board of Property Assessment of Allegheny County, and the Board issues the decision by mail to the property owner.
The tax appeal decision from the first level hearing is typically mailed about 2-3 months after the BPAAR hearing. However, we have seen some decisions take 6 to 12 months to be issued. Once the decision is rendered, all parties (property owner and each of the taxing entities) have 30 days to appeal the decision (de novo – meaning “fresh” or “new”) to the Allegheny County Board of Viewers (BOV). It is very important to know your appeal rights and to appeal within thirty (30) days of the mailing date on the decision.
Any appeals to the second level Board of Viewers (BOV) are retroactive to the original filing date.
Once the case is appealed from the BPAAR (first level) to the BOV (second level), it normally takes anywhere between 6 months to 18 months for the case to be scheduled for a hearing date. It is often a long wait and almost always means that there will be multiple years at issue by the time the case is finally scheduled. All tax appeals are retroactive to the year in which the appeal was originally filed and can generate additional bills or refunds based on the outcome of the tax appeal.
The BOV hearing occurs on the 8th floor of the City County Building as opposed to the BPAAR which is on the 3rd floor of the County Office Building. The hearing is DE NOVO, which means whatever happened at the first level (BPAAR) is now legally irrelevant. The appeal process starts over and the question is what is the base year value of the property under appeal. Unlike the first level (BPAAR), the BOV hearing is in a courtroom, and often there are attorneys from the County, school district and even municipalities present at the time of the hearing.
There is typically a conciliation process first, where everyone attempts to negotiate a settlement for all years involved. At the BOV level, proper legal counsel is essential. Unlike the BPAAR, non-attorneys are precluded from appearing on behalf of property owners. If a settlement is reached, every party can sign off on the agreed upon value while present at the hearing. If the parties are unable to resolve the case through this conciliation, then the case can goto an actual trial in front of an appointed Hearing Master. It is a real trial, with opening arguments, cross-examinations, etc. using the rules of evidence. It is absolutely essential to have competent legal counsel if you are litigating your case at the BOV. The reality is that you normally will not get the best settlement unless you have counsel and are prepared to go to trial. The taxing entities will often pressure property owners into unfair settlements if they are unrepresented. Often, we will hear the statements from attorneys for the school state: "Let’s go to trial then." This is said in an attempt to pressure property owners into settling. Don’t be bullied by the school districts. If you have additional questions about the BOV process, email us firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 412.802.6666 for a free consultation.
Allegheny County has had a long and tumultuous history with property assessments and residents of Allegheny County. There have been at two county wide reassessments (2002 and 2012), and the practice of school districts only appealing new home buyers has increased the lack of uniformity of assessments between similar property owners. Here is a look at the last 50 years of property assessment news in Allegheny County, PA.
Contributing Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 6/6/07
Another Alegheny County reassessment is now overdue. It was 10 years between the 2002 and 2012 reassessments. Many experts expected the next Allegheny County reassessment to occur in 2022, but there are no definitive dates currently set. Reassessments in general are never popular and until the courts order the reassessment, it is unlikely to occur. There are several pending lawsuits as of 2022 which could trigger a reassessment as well, but these could take years to work through the courts.
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