Since 1999, the Pittsburgh law firm of Flaherty Fardo has helped thousands of property owners in Allegheny County property taxes.We provide Allegheny County Property Assessment FAQ’s (frequently asked questions) as a benefit to our clients and for the residents of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
A property assessment is the value that Allegheny County says your property is worth for property taxation purposes. You can find your current assessment value, listed as “2020 Full Base Year Market Value”, at the website here. It is extremely important, because your county assessed value directly determines what your county tax, school district tax and local property tax will be every single year. All three property taxes are calculated using the same County property assessment. Therefore, the lower your 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 2020 property assessment value should therefore reflect the fair market value of your property as of January 1, 2012. 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.
Allegheny County Property taxes are calculated by multiplying the county property assessment by the current millage rate for each specific taxing entity. The county millage rate for 2020 is 4.73. Each school district and local taxing entity (municipality/borough or township) sets their own specific millage rates each year.
EXAMPLE: (Every property owner pays three different tax bills.)
County assessed value: $100,000
County millage rate: 4.73 (county tax = $473 / year)
School millage rate: 20.00 (school taxes would = $2,000 / year)
Local millage rate: 5.00 (local tax = $500 / year)
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. Most properties in Allegheny County hover around 30 mills total, or roughly $3,000 in total property taxes for every $100,000 a property is assessed at.
For more information about the current municipality tax millage rates in Allegheny County, please visit the page found Allegheny County Municipal Millage Rates. For information about the current school district millage rates, please visit Allegheny County School District Millage rates.
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 Base Year is the year in which the last County-wide reassessment occurred. For 2012 taxation purposes, the base year was 2002. For 2020 taxation purposes (and for future years until the next reassessment), the base year is 2012. Therefore, for 2020 property appeals, all values represent the estimated base year market value of the property as of January 1, 2012, unless otherwise updated due to permits, appeals, corrections, flood loss or catastrophic loss. Base year methodology allows similar homes to have similar assessments until the next County-wide reassessment.
“OPA assessors use a computer assisted mass appraisal system (CAMA) to help generate property assessment values. They determine value primarily by comparison with sales from 2009, 2010 and 2011 on properties with similar characteristics within your defined neighborhood. For increased accuracy, the system also takes into account the variations that exist within Allegheny County’s unique neighborhoods. Additionally, our assessors travel throughout the county to collect property data and review assessment valuations.” (Source Allegheny County Website).
Allegheny County hired Tyler Technologies to conduct the most recent reassessment.
The assessment for your property could have changed from the original reassessment value based on appeals, building permits, or various exemptions.
First, you need to verify the accuracy of the property information both with regards to the site information as well as the building characteristics. You should request a property record card from Allegheny County Office Of Property Assessment if you are uncertain of any property characteristics.
“The best way to ensure that your value is correct is to make sure that OPA has correct information regarding the data and characteristics of the property that you own. To obtain this information, check with the OPA Public Information Office in Room 303 of the County Office Building at 542 Forbes Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, or online at the Real Estate Web site. Sale prices of similar properties in your area from 1999, 2000 and 2001 are a good indicator of your current assessment.” (Source Allegheny County Website).
The same logic applies to the 2012 base year values. Property owners need to ensure that the building/property information listed for their property is correct. Property owners can correct mistakes in the building information by either filing an appeal, or by submitting the correct information through the County Real Estate Web site. If significant errors are corrected for a property, this can sometimes automatically prompt a change in the assessment value to reflect this change.
The only way to lower your property tax appeal in Allegheny County is either through tax appeal process or by applying and receiving an abatement or exemption. Allegheny County lists the Tax Abatements and Exemptions on the Allegheny County real estate website which include:
Act 1: Act 42: – City of Pittsburgh Act 42: –
County Act 50 (Homestead/Farmstead Exclusion)
Act 76 (LERTA) Act 77 (Senior Citizen Property Tax Relief)
Act 132 (Residential Visitability Design Tax Credit Program)
Act 156-PA (Clean & Green Program)
Act 202 (New Construction) Exemptions (for Non-Profit Organizations and Governmental Entities)
Taxation Appeal Challenge.
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 2020, 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. The deadline has constantly been March 31 over the past few years (2018, 2019 ands 2020). Allegheny County property assessment appeal forms are available in person on the third floor of the County Office Building at 542 Forbes Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, PA 15219.
Allegheny County tax appeal forms are also available during the relevant appeal period on the Allegheny County website here.
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 2020 was March 31, 2020, and has already passed. An appeal filed in 2020 would constitute a 2020 appeal, and apply only to 2020 and years moving forward. The 2020 appeal form must be postmarked by that date to be accepted for the 2020 tax year. This appeal deadline is the same for any property within Allegheny County. The 2021 deadline has tentatively been set for March 31, 2021. With the pandemic having a significant effect on commercial properties, we suspect a large filing of property tax appeals in 2021.
The Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review typically meets every two weeks at 8:00 a.m. 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.
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, for some reason, a hearing notice is received sooner than that, the Office of Property Assessments will typically work with the property owner on obtaining a continuance from the scheduled hearing if necessary. 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 not made arrangements through your local post office for your mail to be forwarded, it may be a good idea to call our public information center periodically at 412-350-4600 to check on the status.” (Source Allegheny County Website). If you miss the hearing entirely, you would need to file an appeal for a late appeal directly with the Board of Property Assessments Appeals & Review (BPAAR). The Board would hear your request and either approve or deny your request. If the request for a late appeal 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 will help guide you.
Allegheny County posts on their website the following: “Please call (our) public information center at 412-350-4600. Any of our Service Coordinators will be able to assist you. Keep in mind that you have the right to postpone a scheduled hearing only once.” (Source Allegheny County Website). Typically, as stated, the employees at the Office of Property Assessments are very helpful in resolving any 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 days before the date of the hearing.
When challenging or defending your 2020 assessment value, the county website states: “The last County-wide reassessment was 2012, also known as the Base Year. At your hearing, you must be able to show what your property was worth in 2012. You can do this by researching similar homes in your neighborhood, finding similar properties to yours that sold in 2012 or before, checking with local Realtors, and/or getting an appraisal with an effective date of January 1, 2012. It is recommended that you provide a copy of the sales comparables for your property from our Real Estate Web site. Also, you can make arrangements with the public information center to obtain a property record card so that you can view the data characteristics we have recorded for your property. If there are discrepancies, notify us before your hearing so that they can be corrected – just call 412-350-4600. “(Source Allegheny County Website).
Property owners should find comparable sales that occurred in or around the 2012 base year, and/or comparable recent sales that suggest an overpayment for a property (in school district appeals). These sales should be of similar homes in the same neighborhood as the subject. Property owners should avoid focusing on presenting information about other assessment values in their area when possible. The question for the appeal is focused primarily on what other sales and information suggest about the fair market value of the subject property. The property owner (or representative) is required to bring extra copies of their evidence so they can be distributed to all parties in attendance at the hearing (school district representative, etc.).
“Hiring an attorney to represent you is your choice. Legal representation is not required. However, most school districts and municipalities will have legal counsel present.”(Source Allegheny County Website).
We believe, similar to personal injury cases, that settlements and decisions are more advantageous when a property owner is properly represented by legal counsel. Experience with both the process and the individuals involved can make a difference in these cases. 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.
“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). If you do not appear at a scheduled hearing involving your property, your assessment value is more likely to increase. Even if you do not have a strong case, we always still suggest that property owners attend the hearing and provide any additional information that may help their position. This could include any specific information about their property (i.e. problems with the property, repairs needed, etc.) that the hearing officer would not otherwise have knowledge of.
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 decision is typically mailed about 2-3 months after the BPAAR hearing. However, we have seen some decisions take almost a year 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.
Once the case is appealed from the BPAAR (first level) to the BOV (second level), it normally takes anywhere between 3 months to one year for the case to be scheduled for conciliation. It is a long wait and almost always means there will be multiple years at issue by the time the case is finally called. 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 always 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 goes to 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 trying 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: 412.802.6666.
Typically, no. Once you resolve your BOV case, it is closed. The only manner in which to appeal a BOV decision is if your case actually goes to trial (which is rare). If you believe the decision was erroneous and not supported by the facts at trial, or if you believe the trial judge abused their discretion in rendering the decision, you can seek reconsideration in front of the General Motions Judge. However, this is the not the same appellate review as from the BPAAR (de novo or new). It is a very high standard to show that the decision was erroneous or that the judge abused their discretion. Also, it should be noted that we have seen cases where property owners settled cases and then, because they only settled because they felt pressured, were they able to reschedule a new hearing by petitioning the court to vacate the settlement. This is very rare and difficult.
Allegheny County property assessments have had a long and tumultuous history with the residents of Allegheny County. Contributing Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 6/6/07
1970 —Green Tree Borough filed suit challenging the county’s system of assessing one-third of the county every year, claiming that was unfair to all three areas.
1977 — Wilkinsburg filed a similar suit.
1979 — Common Pleas Judge Nicholas P. Papadakos took control of the cases.
October 1, 1979 — Judge Papadakos brokered a consent decree that eliminated the annual regional assessments and required the county to assess every property on a regular basis.
October 17, 1982 — Judge Papadakos ends court oversight of the assessment system because the changes resulted in “fair, equitable and uniform assessments.”
February 13, 1992 — A computer-aided study of 500,000 properties by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette finds the values of many of them are substantially out of whack compared to their purchase price.
January 1994 — An effort to address assessment problems results in substantial increases in property values — some more than 40 percent — leading to a taxpayer revolt.
January 1, 1996 — Fueled by the assessment controversy, Republicans Larry Dunn and Bob Cranmer give their party majority control of the county commissioners for the first time in six decades. Their first day in office they freeze assessments for five years so the county can fix the system.
May 13, 1996 — Six homeowners file suit against the assessment freeze, claiming it unfairly freezes values at inaccurate levels.
April 15, 1997 –Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. declares the freeze illegal and orders the county to prepare a plan to begin developing a new assessment for implementation in 1998 for properties whose values are more than 20 percent above or below fair market value.
January 9, 1998 — In exchange for the county implementing a full reassessment by 2001 instead of 2002, Judge Wettick puts off changes for properties more than 20 percent off of fair market value but also orders across-the-board assessment increases of 2 percent for every property in the county for 1999 and 2000.
February 10, 1998 — County hires Sabre Systems and Service of Miamisburg, Ohio, to complete the county wide reassessment for $23.9 million.
January 1, 2000 — Republican Jim Roddey, elected as the first county chief executive, inherits the assessment mess.
January 9, 2001 — The county Property Assessment Oversight Board certifies new values for 552,000 properties at $57.1 billion across the county, up 48 percent from 2000. This leads to more than 90,000 appeals.
January 2, 2002 — The new county assessment figures show an overall increase of 11 percent, again leading to more than 90,000 appeals.
January 24, 2002 — Mr. Roddey and County Council say they will institute a three-year waiting period before the next county assessment.
November 4, 2003 — Campaigning largely on problems generated by new assessments, Democratic county Controller Dan Onorato defeats Mr. Roddey.
February 15, 2005 — Responding to proposed new assessment figures for 2006 that would have nearly 80 percent of homeowners facing an assessment increase — 17,000 of them 100 percent or more — Mr. Onorato proposes to cap increases at a maximum of 4 percent.
May 12, 2005 — Judge Wettick rules the 4 percent cap is illegal, claiming it would only “exacerbate” disparities in the 2003 assessment.
September 20, 2005 — Mr. Onorato announces revised assessment figures for 2006 that call for average residential increases of 5.8 percent.Oct. 4, 2005 — In a surprise move, Mr. Onorato decides not to use the revised figures for 2006 and instead called on County Council to establish 2002 as a base year for assessments, putting the county in line with most other counties that use a base year and adjust assessments to meet values in the base year.
October 27, 2005 — Kenneth Pierce of Braddock and Stephanie Beechaum of the Hill District file suit against the base-year system, saying their properties have decreased in value since 2002.
October 31, 2005 — A second group of homeowners file suit to challenge the base-year system.
March 16, 2006 — Judge Wettick rules that state law allows the county to use a base-year system for property assessment, but he allows attorney to challenge the constitutionality of the state law.
June 6, 2007 — In a landmark decision, Judge Wettick rules the state law allowing counties to use a base year for property assessments is unconstitutional because it doesn’t treat all taxpayers uniformly, which is a primary requirement.
2009 – Supreme Court rules Base Year unconstitutional.
2009 – Wettick Orders 2012 County Reassessment
Spring 2010 – Residents prepare for 2012 Allegheny County-wide Reassessment.
August 18, 2010 – Judge Wettick holds status conference to receive reports on progress related to countywide 2012 reassessment.
January 1, 2012 – New 2012 Base Year is established for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
2012-2013 - over 100,000 property tax appeals filed.
March 31, 2020 - The 2020 appeal deadline, which has already passed.
March 31, 2021 - The tentative 2021 appeal deadline.
If you would like a free consultation concerning a tax appeal or other real estate issue, please call attorneys Noah Paul Fardo or Nicole Hauptman Amick directly at 412.802.6666 or email them at email@example.com.