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BRT almost finished with 2014 assessment appeals

The Board of Revision of Taxes is almost finished the gigantic job of processing more than 23,000 property assessment appeals for the 2014 tax year. There are about 2,000 left, Carla Pagan, the BRT’s executive director, told the Northeast Times.

That lower number is what the board usually deals with every year. Pagan previously has said the BRT annually rules on 1,000 to 2,000 appeals. She recently told the paper that most of the remaining 2014 appeals are for commercial or industrial properties.

The huge increase in appeals came after a citywide property reassessment that sparked some ire among taxpayers when the new numbers were mailed out in early 2013. Some saw their assessments more than tripled. Even property owners who saw decreases in the real estate taxes they were to pay were dissatisfied had appealed the new assessment.

Tax decreases were the projected norms in the Northeast, the city said, because the tax rate was substantially lower than what it had been when properties were assessed at their old figures. Rates had to drop as assessments rose because the city was legally obligated not to use the reassessment to hike revenues in 2014.

Because Philadelphia had not completed a citywide reassessment in decades, taxpayers were given two opportunities to appeal the new assessments. More than 50,000 asked the Office of Property Assessment to knock down their new numbers. The OPA had conducted the reassessment of more than a half-million properties.

The assessments were touted as reflecting the true market values of properties in Philadelphia. Owners who appealed the numbers were told to show the OPA, the BRT or both that they didn’t really reflect nearby home-sale prices or to demonstrate other reasons why the assessments should be lowered.

Owners had to say more than they couldn’t afford to pay taxes on the new property values, chief assessor Mike Piper said. Owners who didn’t like what they eventually heard about their “first-level” appeals could go to the next level — appealing to the BRT. Some taxpayers did that, while others never even bothered consulting with the OPA and only sought relief from the BRT. The result was the board got swamped with almost 12 times the appeals it usually got.

The BRT got some help from the OPA in trying to whittle down the appeals. For example, the Times reported that the city was making deals with some owners. One owner told the paper he and a city representative bargained over the phone, and the city agreed to knock off all but a $5,000 increase in his property’s assessment.

Lowering an assessment is not to everyone’s advantage, local Realtor Chris Artur had told the paper. Anyone who planned to soon sell a property might get a better price with a high assessment.

Meanwhile, the BRT already has 4,700 appeals of assessments for the 2015 tax year, Pagan said. She expects that number to decrease as the 2014 appeals are cleared away. ••

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