The annual assessment appeal deadline of August 1, 2017 is quickly approaching for the following Pennsylvania Counties:

Adams, Bucks, Butler, Cambria, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Fayette, Franklin, Indiana, Lawrence, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton and York.

Each county has its own separate set of local rules pertaining to assessment appeals that need to be navigated in order to successfully file an annual assessment appeal.  If you have commercial or industrial properties in any of these counties that you feel are over assessed, please contact Paul Morcom or Randy Varner to help you timely appeal those properties.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Valley Forge Towers Apts. N, LP v. Upper Merion Area School District, 49 MAP 2016, held that the taxpayer’s complaint set forth a valid claim that Upper Merion Area School District’s appeal policy of appealing only the real estate assessments of commercial properties violates the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The case reversed lower court dismissals of taxpayer’s complaint and remanded the matter back to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas for further proceedings. The Court found “that a taxing authority is not permitted to implement a program of only appealing the assessment of one sub-classification of properties, where that sub-classification is drawn according to property type – that is, its use as commercial, apartment complex, single family residential, industrial, or the like.”

The Court noted that the Commonwealth Court has been misconstruing the two main principles articulated in Downingtown and Clifton, which are as follows:

  1. All property in a taxing district is a single class, and as a consequence, the Uniformity Clause does not permit the government, including taxing authorities, to treat different property sub-classifications in a disparate manner.
  2. This prohibition applies to any intentional or systematic enforcement of the tax laws, and is not limited to wrongful conduct.

This case is significant for taxpayer’s because it now gives them an avenue to attack school district appeals on Uniformity grounds based on the school district’s appeal policy. If it can be shown through discovery that the school district intentionally or systematically appeals only a subclass of properties then the school district appeal may be dismissed before the taxpayer has to hand over requested discovery from the school district, which may include confidential or proprietary information that the school district could use to try and increase the properties assessed value.

The Valley Forge Towers decision is a big win for taxpayers, but the battle is still far from over. There are many questions still left unanswered by the Court’s decision that still need to be answered.

If your property is appealed by a school district, please contact either Paul R. Morcom, or any member of McNees’ state and local tax group to make sure all of your rights as a property owner are protected.

Those who pay property tax in Pennsylvania have an annual opportunity to appeal the assessed value of property. Deadlines for these appeals vary by county, but most are either August 1st or September 1st, so now is the time to analyze your assessment to determine whether you may be able to have it lowered to reduce your tax burden.

In order to properly analyze your assessment, you must have an idea of what your property is actually worth. That is, what is the price that you would be able to sell it to a willing buyer? Once you have made that determination, you must then go to your assessed value and apply your county’s applicable common level ratio to determine the “implied market value.” If the “implied market value” from your assessment is higher than what you believe your property is worth, your assessment is likely too high which results in you paying more property tax than is warranted.

In this economy, many property owners are experiencing issues that result in a lowering of property values. For instance, landlords may be experiencing higher than normal vacancy rates, for prolonged periods of time, which will affect the value of property. Those who own factories may be facing factors relating to obsolescence. Property owners may own property in blighted areas that have seen dramatic decreases in property values since the last revaluation. Regardless of context, all property owners should examine assessment annually to make sure they are in line with fair market value.

MCNEES ATTORNEYS VARNER AND MORCOM AUTHOR 2016 EDITION OF ASSESSMENT LAW & PROCEDURE IN PENNSYLVANIA

McNees Wallce & Nurick attorneys Randy L. Varner and Paul Morcom are the proud authors of the 2016 edition of Assessment Law & Procedure in Pennsylvania, published by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. The treatise is a comprehensive manual that incorporates years of practical experience by McNees attorneys in this specialized area of the law.   Designed to provide the reader with a guide through each step of the assessment and appeal process, Assessment Law & Procedure in Pennsylvania also provides detailed discussions of the relevant case law and statutory provisions that provide the framework for Pennsylvania assessment law. Originally circulated informally, the first edition was published in 1994 by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute and quickly became the “assessment bible” for counsel, assessment appeal board members, assessors and appraisers.

WE CAN HELP

The property tax assessment and appeal process can be confusing and intimidating and directly affects the bottom line of your business. We can help you analyze the assessment on your property and, if necessary, handle an appeal. Feel free to contact us for any questions related to the assessment and appeal process.