Property Tax Resources

56 minutes reading time (11185 words)

Pennsylvania Property Tax Updates

UPDATED december 2018


In one of its last decisions of 2018, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court overturned a trial court in a decision issued December 27, 2018 concerning the taxability of billboards for property tax purposes.  See Consolidated Appeals of Chester-Upland School District, 633 C.D. 2017 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 12-27-2018).

In 2011, Pennsylvania legislators passed a statute excluding billboard structures from the definition of “real estate” for purposes of property taxation.  The Chester-Upland School District case is the first case to reach Pennsylvania’s appellate courts regarding the interpretation of the statute.

For tax year 2015, two school districts in Delaware County collectively filed 26 real estate assessment appeals; each of the 26 appeals were of properties containing an outdoor advertising sign.  The school districts sought to value the properties based on revenue the property owners realized through ground leases or grants of easements to outdoor advertising companies.  The trial court consolidated all 26 appeals on the legal issue of “whether a taxing authority can use the presence of an outdoor advertising sign to increase the real property tax basis of the property.”  Citing the statute, the trial court ruled in favor of the taxpayers, concluding that the statutory exclusion of outdoor advertising signs from real estate taxation, “prevented the existence of an outdoor advertising sign on a property from being considered in any manner to raise that property’s real estate tax basis.” 

The school districts appealed to the Commonwealth Court.  The school districts argued that the sign-and-structure exclusion does not preclude the assessment of the land on which a billboard sits.  Taxpayers responded that “the amount of rent paid here by billboard operators to the property owners pursuant to leases or easements necessarily ‘reflect consideration’ of the billboards and that taxing the rent that is paid by the operators will operate as a ‘subtle-but no less real – assessment.” The Commonwealth Court ruled that the trial court erroneously interpreted the statute to foreclose any consideration of any potential income that a property owner may receive from the placement of a billboard on its property.  The Commonwealth Court interpreted prior decisions of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in its Marple and Tech One decisions to support its holding that the appraiser must considered the “economic reality” of a long-term lease on a property that provides revenue to the property owner.  The Commonwealth Court limited its ruling to the effect of the outdoor advertising structure on the land value.  With respect to the advertising revenue itself, the Commonwealth Court held “We agree that an appraiser must not indirectly value an existing billboard on a property by, for example, considering the revenue generated from the number of advertisements that are placed on that billboard in a given year.”

To discuss the specifics of your property, please contact Siegel Jennings at:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Siegel Jennings Co., L.P.A.
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)

Oregon Property Tax Updates
Rhode Island Property Tax Updates

American Property Tax Counsel

Recent Published Property Tax Articles

Atlanta, Excessive Assessments May Be Coming

​Here's what taxpayers should do if the tax controversy now brewing causes large property tax increases

Recent headlines questioning the taxable values of Atlanta-area commercial properties may threaten taxpayers throughout Fulton County with a heightened risk of increased assessments.

Changes in the Midtown Improvement District, which extends northward from North...

Read more

Beware of Double Taxation on Personal Property

​ While Texas solved the problem, your state may not have addressed the issue.

Many states tax business personal property, a classification that includes furniture, fixtures, equipment, machinery and, in some states, inventory. Whatever the jurisdiction, the values of business personal property and real estate can easily be conflated in ad...

Read more

Runaway Property Taxes in New Jersey

Tax courts don't always recognize market value in setting property tax assessments.

Most real estate is taxed ad valorem, or according to the value. The theory is that each person is taxed on the value of the real property they own.

The New Jersey Constitution (Article VIII, Section 1, paragraph 1) stipulates...

Read more

Member Spotlight


Forgot your password? / Forgot your username?