It's time to assess your property-tax assessment

Posted: February 15, 2013

H EY, PHILADELPHIANS, your property assessments are on the way.

The city on Friday was to begin mailing new assessments to owners under the city's new property-tax system, known as the Actual Value Initiative.

Wondering how you can tell if your property has been assessed too high?

For starters, if you live in a two-story house but are listed as having a three-story, that's an obvious sign you've been over-assessed.

You also can visit the Office of Property Assessment (OPA) website ( aspx) to see the value of your neighbors' comparable properties. Or you can consult with a realty agent.

"When you feel the market value assigned to your property is not reflective of fair market value . . . you can challenge, not on market value, but that you're treated unfairly to others," said attorney Michael Weinstein.

If you can prove that the property characteristics listed are incorrect or that the estimated market value is too high, you can request an informal appeal with OPA by March 31. The forms for that appeal will arrive with your assessment notice.

If you're still not satisfied, you can appeal to the Board of Revision of taxes by Oct. 7. If that doesn't do the trick, you can take the city to court. Affordability and gripes "about politics and things like that are not good reasons to file a first-level review," said Chief Assessment Officer Richie McKeithen.

Assessment notices will not include tax bills because City Council has to set a tax rate. Mayor Nutter wants to collect $1.2 billion in property taxes, the same amount as last year, which would mean a 1.25 percent tax rate without any relief measures. Under that rate, 60 percent of residents will likely see increases to their tax bills, although most will be incremental. More than 36,000 will see increases of $1,000 or more.

"There will be cases where people are paying more, but everybody will be able to see something that is accurate," said mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald.

If Council approves any relief measures, such as a homestead exemption that would lower the taxable value of your home, the tax rate will likely be higher.

Meanwhile, the City Controller's Office released data Thursday showing that 4,700 commercial properties will get massive tax breaks, including 11 that could see $1 million or more in cuts.

Smaller businesses are more likely to see spikes in their bills. More than 5,000 commercial properties will see their tax bills increase, including about 1,200 that will jump by $5,000 or more.

The controller's data also showed how AVI could affect neighborhoods with the largest senior populations. Taxes in Logan Circle, Poplar and Powelton, where seniors comprise at least a quarter of the population, could increase by $1,000 to $2,000. Seniors make up 42 percent of Germantown, where the average income is $19,694 and the average tax bill could go up by $675.

On Twitter: @Jan_Ransom


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