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Reassessment Taxpayer Guide

Reassessment Taxpayer Guide

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Published by Andrea Gillhoolley
Lebanon County reassessment taxpayer guide
Lebanon County reassessment taxpayer guide

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Published by: Andrea Gillhoolley on Jul 07, 2012
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Lebanon County, Pennsylvania
Why was the reassessment needed?
Real estate taxes are calculated for each property, based upon theappraised
Fair Market Value
at a given point in time (base-year).This base-year is used for assessments each year or until a newbase-year is established by another countywide reassessment.Ideally, a county should reassess all properties every three or four years. However, the typical period between reassessments inPennsylvania is 20 to 25 years. A countywide reassessment shouldnot be confused with a periodic change in individual assessments.The current base-year for Lebanon County assessments is 1972.This is when the last countywide reassessment was completed.In 2008, the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas ruled that acountywide reassessment is needed because property values (thatcreate the tax base) became inconsistent, unfair, and too old toreflect current trends and changes in the value of real estate. It isthe legal responsibility of the Lebanon County Board of Assessmentto establish the
Fair Market Value
of all county real property. This isdone to establish a base-year market value for real estate taxpurposes.
To achieve a fair and equitable tax base, two primaryobjectives must be accomplished: A. Market values in the year of a reassessment must be at 100percent of true market value, andB. Properties of similar type, characteristics, and neighborhoodmust have uniform value.When this is achieved, each property owner will be paying his/her fair share of the tax burden.
The challenge with the real estate taxsystem lies in the fact that property values change over time;therefore, assessments cease to reflect real market values. Sincethe real estate tax is an "at value" tax, the fairness of the taxchanges as the real estate market changes. These changes varybetween property types, geographic areas, and other factors. According to the Court, since Lebanon County’s last reassessmentin 1972, property values throughout the county have appreciated atdifference percentages. This market change has created a lack of uniformity, resulting in property owners paying more or less thantheir proportionate share of the tax burden.
How was the reassessment conducted?
 A. Properties were visited to obtain accurate descriptions of property characteristics, and collected data was computerizedand quality-checked.B. Real estate market studies were conducted to develop formulasfor estimating the
Fair Market Value
for each property, as of January 1, 2012.C. Final estimates of value were determined after consideration of all appropriate approaches to valuation.D. Notifications of new
Fair Market 
values are mailed by July 1,2012. The notice will also project
Clean and Green
values for properties 10 or more acres in size.E. Informal reviews can be scheduled to give property owners achance to ask questions, verify information, and present factsabout the property that may affect the value.F. If owners dispute the new value, they may appeal to the Boardof Assessment and present their own evidence of 
Fair Market Value
.G. The owner may appeal the decision of the Board of  Assessment to the Court of Common Pleas.
What important deadlines do I need to remember?
Mailing schedule for 
change of assessment 
Change of assessment 
notices are mailed by July 1, 2012.
Informal reviews:
You have 40 days from the mailing date of your 
change of assessment 
notice to call and schedule an appointment for aninformal review of your property value.
Formal hearings - Board of Assessment:
 You have 40 days from the date on your 
change of assessment 
 notice to file a formal appeal to the Board of Assessment.You may file an appeal by letter, stating the date, parcel number,and your address; however, you must complete an officialappeal form before a hearing will be scheduled. All formal appeals at the county level must be heard before theBoard of Assessment by October 31, 2012. The countyhas appointed several auxiliary appeal boards to hear appeals
Clean and Green
 The deadline for filing a
Clean and Green
application is October 15, 2012 (effective for the 2013 county/municipal and 2013-2014school billing cycles). For subsequent, non-reassessment years,the deadline is June 1.
New Tax Base:
 New values will be certified on or before November 15, 2012.The new tax base will go into effect on January 1, 2013. Realestate taxes (county, municipalities, and schools) will be basedupon the new values.
I just received my new assessment notice.Now what do I do?
How do I prepare for my formal hearing before theBoard of Assessment?
Property owners have the right, under Pennsylvania law, to appealtheir assessments if the owner believes that the assessment is notuniform with other assessments or at
Fair Market Value
. Theproperty owner may appeal the assessment as long as statutorydeadlines have been met and the appeal rules and regulationsadopted by the county have been met. You may obtain a copy of the appeal form and rules and regulations for appealingassessments from the Assessment Office, Reassessment Center, or online at the county’s website (www.lebcounty.org
).The issue in any appeal is the
Fair Market Value
of the subjectproperty. The law presumes the assessor's value to be correct untilproven otherwise by the property owner; therefore, the propertyowner has the burden of presenting evidence to the Board of  Assessment to substantiate his or her opinion of market value. Anappeal opens the property assessment for re-evaluation. As a resultof an appeal, the property's assessment may, by law, be lowered,raised, or remain the same.In the case of an assessment that includes land and building values,testimony will be accepted concerning the total value only. TheBoard of Assessment will not consider the appeal of either land or buildings as separated from the total property value.If your appeal is based on a comparison with other properties, youmust be prepared to submit a list of similar properties that wererecently sold. The information should be submitted in writing andinclude the specifications of the compared properties and their selling price. If you allege that the market value is excessive, youmust be prepared to document your opinion by accepted appraisalprocesses, i.e., Cost, Market, and/or Income Approaches. Aprofessionally prepared appraisal will be acceptable in lieu of thisinformation. If you allege that the value in your area is beingadversely affected by a certain nuisance or other factor, you mustbe prepared to document the impact of this problem through use of market sales.You will receive notification in the mail, at least 20 days in advance,indicating the date and time of your formal appeal hearing.
How do I appeal my assessment to the Court of Common Pleas?
If you are not satisfied with the decision of the Board of Assessment,you have the right to appeal your assessment to the Court of Common Pleas. Contact your attorney for deadline information andrepresentation.
Please review the overall process.
1. I received my
change of assessment 
notice. What can I donext?2. Review your data and information online atwww.courthouseonline.com/PA-LB. You may access your individual record by inputting the control number and websitepassword, printed on your 
change of assessment 
notice.3. Carefully review your deadlines, legal rights, and the informalprocesses available to you.4. Read and study your 
change of assessment 
notice carefully.Most questions can be answered by understanding the notice.Pay attention to the impact statement to see how the new valuemay affect your taxes.5. Call the Telephone Information Center (the number is listed onyour notice) to ask general questions or schedule anappointment. Please be patient. Call volume may be heavy attimes.6. Study property assessments and arm’s length sales of similar homes in your neighborhood. Being familiar with thisinformation will help you evaluate the uniformity of your newassessment with what is typical for properties like yours. Youcan search and review reassessment data on other propertiesat public computers at the Reassessment Center.7. Meet with a reassessment representative at your scheduledinformal review to get answers to your questions, review your property description, and discuss property values.8. If needed, file an appeal with the Board of Assessment. Do notmiss the deadline. You can withdraw later.9. If needed, file an appeal with the Court of Common Pleas.
How do I prepare for my informal appointment?
If you have an informal appointment, bring your 
change of assessment 
photographs and/or paperwork that documentfacts or features about your property; which may affect value, influencea buyer, or support your claim
.Commercial and industrial property owners should bring their 
Income and Expense
statements for the property, rent rolls, or leases. This will facilitate the process of reviewing and establishingfinal market value.
What happens at an informal review?
 Check in and wait for your name to be called.Meet with a reviewer one-on-one.An appraiser will evaluate new information.In most cases, you will learn the result before you leave.You may accept the result, which withdraws any prior formalappeal request; or reject the result and await notification of your hearing date (if a formal appeal form was filed by the deadline).
What happens at a formal appeal?
Check in and wait for your name to be called.The appellant will appear before a one to three-person board.The county value is read into evidence.The appellant presents his/her opinion of value and evidenceto support it.The Board’s decision is sent to the appellant by mail.
It is important to understand that the actual selling price of your property may or may not be a realistic indicator of 
Fair Market Value
. Sales used to determine the
Fair Market Value
of allproperties in Lebanon County were determined to be either valid or invalid for the purpose of market analysis. Peoplesometimes pay more or less for a variety of reasons. Appraisers are interested in the pattern of the
marketwithin a neighborhood for each property type, age, and style.This means that the
Fair Market Value
on your property may behigher or lower than the purchase price.
Be cautious when comparing properties by square foot or per acre. Some people are misled into thinking that all buildingsshould be the same rate per foot, or that all land is at the samerate per foot, regardless of size. The appraisal models thatwere developed are very complex and replicate the dynamicsof the true marketplace for real estate.
You can know that your property value is a fair representationof the marketplace if you study the information provided, avoidquick conclusions, consult experts, and follow the process thathas been provided for you as part of the reassessment.
It is possible that your property may be non-typical, and theremay be factors that would affect the marketability of the parcelsuch as septic problems, contaminated water, limited access,landlocked access, soil that will not perk, right-of-way problems,floodwaters, junkyard nearby, etc. These limiting factors to themarketability of the property may or may not have already beentaken into account for the initial appraisal. That is why it isimportant for the property owner to take advantage of theinformal review process.
Please explain the
Clean and Green
program andeligibility requirements.
Clean and Green - Pennsylvania Farmland and Forest Land  Assessment Act 
 Act 319
(as amended) is a state law, authorized bythe Pennsylvania Constitution, that allows qualifying land that isdevoted to agricultural and forest land use, to receive a preferentialassessment.Property owners with land 10 acres or more in size may qualify for the
Clean and 
Green program. Land tracts less than 10 acres insize and actively producing an agricultural commodity may also beeligible. The
Clean and Green
program provides a tax reduction bypermitting a “use value” to be assessed to qualifying land instead of “market value.”Property owners may learn more about this program by visitingLebanon County’s website (www.lebcounty.org).
Clean and Green
 information may also be obtained by contacting the Lebanon County Assessment Office at 717.228.4425.
Please explain how you determined my property value.
State law and the courts require that state-licensed CertifiedPennsylvania Evaluators (CPEs) consider three approaches tovalue, whenever possible; namely, the Market Approach, the Cost Approach, and the Income Approach. After data is collected, it isverified and validated by Evaluator Services and Technology’s dataquality control personnel. A CPE will then utilize the data to classifystructures and assign each property to a neighborhood that containssimilar structures and market conditions. Valid sales for all propertytypes are studied and appropriate formulas are developed. Fromthis, preliminary values are produced. CPEs will then review thesevalues and make any needed adjustments to land and buildingvalues so that all values are uniform.
Fair Market Value
is determined in the marketplace, where a willingseller sells to a willing buyer in an arm’s length transaction. Theprocess of determining market values involves the analysis of recentsales within the county. Only valid sales that reflect transactions onthe open market where there is no pressure to buy or sell, andwhere the property was on the market for a reasonable time, areused.Criteria used for invalidating sales includes family sales, specialfinancing, forced sales, uninformed buyers, change in use, and ageof sale. The validated sales are then used, as a group, to predictthe probable selling price or current value of each and everyproperty as of January 1, 2012. Assessment law says that the realestate tax must be based on the value of the real estate. This valueis based on the probable selling price, backed by sufficientevidence to support the conclusion of value.
How do I determine if my property value is fair?
The values were determined by Evaluator Services and Technologywho is regarded as a highly-qualified Pennsylvania reassessmentfirm. It is still recommended that each property owner participate inthe opportunity to review his/her value with the reassessment firm,as deemed necessary.Following are important tips for evaluating the fairness of your newopinion of value:
Study the data on record and question any information thatseems inaccurate or is not a good estimate. Some data iscritical to the valuation process, while other data is non-criticaland does not directly affect value. Be aware that assessmentmeasurement methods may be different than you expect. Thekey is that the standards are consistent.
 Ask yourself what is the most likely selling price for your property if it were marketed as of January 1, 2012. If your opinion is that the new proposed
Fair Market Value
is too high,you need to develop evidence supporting your opinion. Thebest approach is an independent appraisal; however, you cando self studies of valid sales within your neighborhood onsimilar properties.

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