Are You Getting All Your Pennsylvania Property Tax Breaks?

Appealing your assessment, applying for an exemption, or applying for a rebate are all ways to potentially lower your Pennsylvania property tax bill.

By , Attorney · Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Whether you live in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, or any other Pennsylvania community, your home is subject to local property taxes. Of course, like any homeowner, you want to ensure that you are not overpaying.

How can you reduce a property tax burden that seems unfairly high? There are two main ways, including:

  • filing an appeal (a method available to all Pennsylvania homeowners), and/or
  • if you meet certain qualifications, claiming an exemption
  • if you are elderly or disabled, applying for a cash rebate, or
  • if you are a senior citizen, doing volunteer work to offset a portion of your bill (available only in a few localities).

Appeal the Pennsylvania Tax Assessment of Your Home

You might know that the Pennsylvania authorities compute your property tax by multiplying your home's taxable value by the tax rate.

Pennsylvania has 67 different counties. Both property tax rates and home values are determined by local state government officials. Property tax rate information for your county is available on the website. Each of those has its own process for how it determines the value of your home.

Normally, each county has assessors on staff who place values on local homes. To find the contact information for your county assessors office, go to Pennsylvania's Department of Community and Economic Development website.

Here's an example of how Pennsylvania's assessment and tax system works: Rocky and Adrianna own a home in Pennsylvania, on which the assessor has placed a taxable value of $200,000. If the tax rate is 1%, Rocky and Adrianna will owe $2,000 in property tax. So, they appeal the $200,000 taxable value. The appeals board reduces that value to $150,000. Now, Rocky and Adrianna owe only $1,500 in property tax on their Pennsylvania home.

If you believe that the tax assessor has misjudged the value of your home, or if the taxable value is higher than that of similar homes in your neighborhood (of similar size, condition, and so on), you might wish to pursue an appeal. For more information, read Should You Challenge Your Property Tax Assessment in Pennsylvania?

Claim All the Pennsylvania Tax Breaks to Which You're Entitled

Beyond attempting to reduce the taxable value of your home, Pennsylvania allows for reduced property taxes if the homeowner meets certain requirements. Many of these programs were clarified and expanded through the Homeowner Tax Relief Act, Act 72 of 2004. Two of the most commonly used programs are:

Homestead and farmstead exemption. A portion of your Pennsylvania home's value may be excluded from property tax. The amount will depend on the tax jurisdiction or school district in which the home is located. Learn more about the homestead and farmstead exemption and how to apply (which you might need to do every three years, per 53 Pa. C.S. § 8584(a)) from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, and check for details with your county's tax office.

Disabled veterans. A veteran who is blind, paraplegic, or a double amputee, or has a 100% military-connected disability may be exempt from Pennsylvania property tax. It depends on the veteran's economic need. The same exemption is available to the unmarried surviving spouse of such a veteran. Learn more about the veterans' exemption from Pennsylvania's Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs.

Although Pennsylvania laws set statewide property tax rules, your local government handles the administration and levying of property tax. You'll want to contact your local tax assessor for complete details on property tax exemptions. Be sure to ask about any forms you need to complete and the deadline for filing.

In addition to property tax, which is based on the assessed value of your home, your tax bill might include special assessments. Typically these are made to pay for improvements, such as street paving or repaving, in your neighborhood.

Pennsylvania Tax Rebate Program

If you are low income and age 65 or older, a widow or widower age 50 or older, or are age 18 or older and disabled, you might qualify for a tax rebate of up to $1,000. Although the income limit was $35,000 for several years, it was raised to $45,000 in 2023. See the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue's web page describing the details and application process.

Tax Offset Programs for Senior Volunteers

A few Pennsylvania school districts, such as Avon Grove and Malvern, have created Senior Citizen Volunteer Tax Relief Programs. Residents who are age 60 or older can receive a modest rebate on the school-funding portion of their property taxes based on hours worked in local schools. After passing a screening you might, for example, help out in the library, tutor children who need personal attention, assist the building and grounds crew, or volunteer in the administrative offices.

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