Are You Getting All Your Pennsylvania Property Tax Breaks?

Make sure you're not paying too much in Pennsylvania property taxes!

By , Attorney

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. The first method is available to all Pennsylvania homeowners. The second depends on whether you meet certain qualifications. If you do, you can seek tax relief using both methods.

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 who place values on local homes. You can find the contact information for your county assessors office on 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 exemption. A portion of your Pennsylvania home's value may be exempt 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 exemption 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 those forms. To get contact information for your tax assessor, call your county government office, or check the Pennsylvania assessor's website.

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

Additional Resources

Depending on the complexity of your situation, you may want to seek legal help to reduce your Pennsylvania property tax. To find an experienced real estate lawyer in Pennsylvania, check out Nolo's Lawyer Directory.

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