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Pennsylvania Property Tax Assessments Unconstitutional

June 6th, 2007 · 3 Comments

Allegheny County property taxes won’t change overnight, and there is still a lengthy fight ahead, but an Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge held today that the property tax system in the entire state of Pennsylvania is unconstitutional today (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article here). I’ve only made it through the first 7 or so pages of the opinion (the entire 90 some odd page pdf can be found here), but the basis of the decision was that Pennsylvania property taxes violated the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution (essentially “All taxes shall be uniform, upon the same class of subjects …”). Property values have shifted so much since the last reassessment in some places that the effective tax rate on some properties is double that of others in the same jurisdiction.

I’ll have to read the decision in more depth, and I don’t expect that property taxes will change any time soon, but it should restart the debate about property taxes in Pennsylvania, and especially in Allegheny County. More excitement and information to come …

Tags: Allegheny County · Real Estate · property taxes

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 robert zilch // Aug 8, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    real estate tax is not unconstitutional.the uniformity is for houses taxed the same every time the same way if the valuation is similar and at the same tax rate.

  • 2 Chris // Oct 22, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    We’ve bought a house assessed at $66K for $52K in 2005. We appealed our assessment based solely on the purchase price. Earlier this spring we had a hearing, and have yet to receive a decision. What a crock this is… I need relief NOW.
    Fair Market value CANNOT be measured ANY BETTER than using the purchase price in a arms length transaction. The unifiormity clause is being clearly violated here in Allegheny County, especially in municipalites that are seeing the slow decline of property values, like in the Mon-Valley.

  • 3 michael grant // Oct 29, 2007 at 12:42 pm

    There are many incentives for residents to own their homes, as opposed to renting. There are also obstacles to reaching this goal. With the home market experiencing difficult times, getting approved for a mortgage is only going to get harder.
    Renting an apartment is not always a bad thing, but there is a majority of us that rent because we have not been able to purchase our preferred home. Perhaps the conditions of the homes we can afford are not satisfactory; maybe there is not enough privacy; or it could be that there is something else that is creating a barrier.
    One of the main reasons people do not purchase homes is due to the inability to afford the property taxes that are associated with their desired property. The cost of the home falls within the range of affordable, but the property taxes add another $300 per month to that mortgage, and you are pushed away from your dream.
    Owning a home is an investment, and allows an individual or family to build their equity, where as rent payments do not build equity. Encouraging home ownership also promotes longer residence within a community, where as most rental agreements are one year in length. So, home ownership increases equity and encourages longer residency.
    In order to increase home ownership, we must provide citizens with an alternative. We want families to save money rather than spend it, and to allow for a better chance of community improvement, we need to make homes affordable. We need to decrease and eliminate property taxes but do so without jeopardizing financing public education.
    Supporting home ownership and allowing families to build wealth, not dive further into debt, is a crucial step to reverse the trend of a population that is relocating to other states.

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