The results of the Actual Value Initiative have created a huge variation among properties all across the city.
The Office of Property Assessments establishes the value of property based on four things: the size and age of the property, a property’s location and condition, and the property’s use.
The property’s use determines whether the owner is eligible for the Homestead Exemption. The Homestead Exemption will take $15,000 off the total amount of the assessed value that the owner is taxed on.
For example, if a home were assessed at $100,000, with the Homestead Exemption, the owner would be taxed on only $85,000. The only requirement to get the Homestead Exemption is to live on the property as your primary residence.
Helen and Sean Gill live at 4200 Decatur St. in Holmesburg. This is their primary residence. The Gills also own multiple rental properties all over the city. Their rental properties include a condo located at 1324 Locust St., another condo located at 2601 Pennsylvania Ave. and a house located at 4127 Orchard St.
“Our properties are located all over the city. Each location pays different amounts of taxes. The new assessments have increased our taxes in each property,” said Helen.
The Gills applied for the Homestead Exemption for their primary home on Decatur Street, which is valued at $192,000. However, when they received their assessments in the mail, the exemption had only been applied to their condo at Locust Street, which is valued at only $79,000.
“It makes me feel like they applied it to the lowest-valued place, so they can make more money from us,” said Helen. “It does not seem right or fair. I am going to call and get it changed as soon as I can.”
The Office of Property Assessments clearly states that in order to receive the Homestead Exemption, one must use the property as his or her primary residence. A spokeswoman from the Homestead Exemption hotline said that she was not sure why the exemption was applied to the wrong property. but the matter would be investigated and the exemption would be applied to the correct address as soon as possible.
“I don’t know how but it happens. So now we need to fix it. this has happened before with people moving after the application has been sent in and having to apply it to other houses,” she said. “We have to move the application to Decatur Street. I have to email the Office of Property Assessment directly, so they can make the change.”
The spokeswoman explained the steps that the Gills will have to take in order to change the application. The Gills must fill out an affidavit to show the city proof of their primary address.
In order to prove their primary address, the city requires copies of both of the owners’ photo identification and a utility bill or voter registration card. They will also have to fill out a new Homestead Exemption application.
“We’re just looking for both names to prove to the city that it is their primary residence,” said the spokeswoman.
If there is a mistake on your Homestead Exemption, you have 45 days after application to remove it. Final applications for the Homestead Exemption are due by July 31, 2013.
“I don’t understand why I have to do more work to figure out their mistake,” said Helen. “I did what I was supposed to but I have to do more work to fix what I didn’t make a mistake about.”
Although there is a lot of time left to file the Homestead Exemption, the deadline to file a first-level review of your property assessment has already passed. Property assessments were mailed out in the beginning of February and the first-level appeals were due by March. 31.
However, some property owners still have not received an assessment, so it was never possible to file a review by the deadline.
“We still haven’t gotten an assessment in the mail for the house on Orchard Street,” said Sean. “We wouldn’t have known what happened there if we weren’t able to see it on the computer.”
The AVI has increased the value of taxable amount of properties in the city from $36 billion to $96 billion. The city will collect only about $1.2 billion in property taxes. An estimated 54 percent of the taxes will go towards the Philadelphia School District and the other 46 percent will go towards the city’s operating budget.
“If that’s all that they are getting from the taxes and there is that much taxable property, there has to be something wrong,” said Sean.
The city’s elected officials will decided the final decision on the tax rate over the summer when they vote on the city’s budget. Mayor Nutter has proposed a 1.3 percent tax rate. More information and the application for the Homestead Exemption can be found at the Office of Property Assessment’s website.