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Allegheny County - What's Good for the County
May Not Be Good for You

by Tom Branham, Washington D.C., September 2012

Commercial property owners are receiving letters from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania urging them to waive second-level appeals of their new 2013 reassessed values. The county suggests that if owners are dissatisfied with the results of their initial appeal with the assessor, they should take their case directly to court.

 

However, POER believes that skipping appeals to the Board of Property Assessments, Appeals and Review and going directly to the Court of Common Pleas may not be in your best interest. Going to court rather than to the board will cost you more time and money.

 

Deadline Looms

 

The letters were sent out because there are concerns that county officials won't get through the requested 100,000 second-level appeals for commercial and residential properties by the December 17th deadline. That's when taxing bodies must begin work to set their millage rates based on the 2013 certified values.

 

The county hopes that if commercial owners with tax assessments over $1 million give up an appearance before the Board and instead go directly to court, it will speed up the process. Officials explained that these high-value properties have a significant impact on the ability of taxing bodies to set millages during their budgeting process.

 

So Far, So Good

 

Commercial property owners have been very successful in winning assessment reductions through appeals with the assessor. About 70% of the 5,357 first-level commercial appeals were won by taxpayers. The average valuation decrease was $292,898. Nevertheless, many owners intend to fight for further reductions because their initial reassessment value came in so high.

 

Utilize All Levels of Appeal

 

POER's position is that taxpayers should take full advantage of all appeal opportunities. We recommend you work to correct overstated assessments through administrative appeals with the assessor and the Board of Property Assessments, Appeals and Review. Then when warranted, pursue formal appeals in court with the assistance of legal counsel.

 

Since the reassessed values in Allegheny County will not be used to calculate taxes until 2013, property owners have a unique opportunity to appeal both this year, and again next year. Aggressive appeals are the key to achieving the fairest and most equitable assessment and property tax bill.