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Pennsylvania Property Tax Updates

UPDATED December 2020

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Taxpayer Constitutional Challenge to Government Increase Appeals

Commercial taxpayers in Pennsylvania may have reason for hope in light of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granting allowance of appeal on November 3, 2020.  Represented by APTC Founding Member Siegel Jennings, Co., L.PA. Autozone filed a constitutional challenge to a government-initiated increase appeal.  Pennsylvania is known as one of the only states that allow taxing bodies to file increase assessment appeals against its own taxpayers.  In practice, many Pennsylvania School Districts single out only high value commercial owners for increase appeals.  Siegel Jennings and other taxpayer advocates have been seeking to limit those government-initiated appeals.

From late 2019 through early 2020, the Commonwealth Court (Pennsylvania’s intermediate appellate court responsible for matters involving state and local governments) issued a series of seven pro-government decisions in cases where taxpayers challenged whether taxing districts’ systems of selecting increase assessment appeals violated constitutional uniformity.  Four of those taxpayers filed requests with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to hear the cases, but the Supreme Court allowed only one appeal to proceed: Kennett Consolidated School District v. Chester County Board of Assessment, 63 MAP 2020.

In Kennett Consolidated, the School District delegated its selection of assessment appeals to a commercial appraiser who used a threshold to recommend appeals on thirteen (13) commercial properties which he believed to be under-assessed by at least $1 Million fair market value.  The Supreme Court certified the issues of: 1) whether the use of a monetary threshold automatically violates uniformity; 2) whether the result of appealing only commercial properties “in operation and effect” violated uniformity; and 3) whether the Commonwealth Court applied an improper standard by requiring the taxpayer to prove the government intentionally discriminated against a subclass of property owners.  That case is currently being briefed at the Supreme Court, and oral argument is expected to be scheduled in 2021.  We will continue to provide updates on the progress of this significant case.

As we look ahead to 2021, owners of property in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, should be aware that the deadline to appeal assessments is March 31, 2021.  Reducing your property taxes will require filing an appeal before the deadline, and winning that appeal will require evidence of your property’s market value as of the date of filing.  Importantly, 2021 appeals should take into consideration the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Therefore, property owners should act now to collect the necessary data and evaluate the potential for an appeal with qualified counsel. 

If you  believe the value of your property has been diminished by the COVID-19 crisis or that your property is otherwise overvalued by the county, please contact Siegel Jennings at:

Sharon F. DiPaolo, Esquire
Brendan Kelly, Esquire
Siegel Jennings, Co., L.P.A.
(412) 486-2848
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)

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