Homestead exemption deadline is next week

Next week is the dead­line for Phil­adelphi­ans to ap­ply for a homestead ex­emp­tion, which was cre­ated to lessen the im­pact of po­ten­tial in­creases in prop­erty taxes.

Homeown­ers re­ceived the ap­plic­a­tion in the mail in early Septem­ber, with their Of­fice of Prop­erty As­sess­ment ac­count in­form­a­tion in­cluded. They have un­til Nov. 15 to re­turn them.

“There’s no down­side to par­ti­cip­at­ing in the pro­gram,” said Mar­isa Wax­man, as­sist­ant ad­min­is­trat­or for pro­grams and policy at the OPA. “It’s a one-time ap­plic­a­tion. You have to own your home and live in it as your primary res­id­ence. All you have to do is add your phone num­ber, an­swer four simple ques­tions and sign and date it.”

Ap­plic­a­tions can also be com­pleted at ht­tps://opa­ph­­Con­firm­a­­px

“Just click ‘sub­mit,’ ” Wax­man said.

Last sum­mer, the city had what it called a “soft launch” of the homestead ex­emp­tion ap­plic­a­tion. The dead­line to file was the end of Ju­ly. Those ap­plic­a­tions were pro­cessed, but the city delayed im­ple­ment­a­tion of its Ac­tu­al Value Ini­ti­at­ive by a year.

The city re­cently com­pleted as­sess­ments of about 577,000 par­cels, but the data will not be re­leased for an­oth­er three months.

The ap­plic­a­tions that are due next Thursday are for tax year 2014.

At present, Phil­adelphia prop­erty taxes are cal­cu­lated us­ing a com­plic­ated for­mula — home value mul­ti­plied by 32 per­cent, then mul­ti­plied by a tax rate of 9.771 per­cent. In gen­er­al, today’s home val­ues are much lower than what they’re worth, if they were sold.

That sys­tem is be­ing scrapped and re­placed by AVI.

In mid-Feb­ru­ary, the Of­fice of Prop­erty As­sess­ment will send a mail­ing to homeown­ers in­dic­at­ing the ac­tu­al value of their prop­erty. The fig­ure will be lowered by $30,000, the amount of the homestead ex­emp­tion.

“People will get their home value and see the homestead ex­emp­tion at the same time,” Wax­man said. “It’s a flat thirty-thou­sand dol­lars, re­gard­less of the value of your home. The be­ne­fit is a lower value of your home.”

Wax­man ex­plained that the mail­ing will not be the fi­nal word.

“We don’t want any­one to pan­ic,” she said. “The first thing you need to do is ask, ‘Is that right?’ The goal of the re­as­sess­ment is to have sim­il­ar prop­er­ties have sim­il­ar val­ues. That’s what we’re aim­ing for.”

Homeown­ers have un­til March 31 to re­quest that the OPA re­con­sider the as­signed value.

In the spring, City Coun­cil and the Nut­ter ad­min­is­tra­tion will de­term­ine a tax rate. Their dead­line is May 31.

That rate will be mul­ti­plied by the ac­tu­al prop­erty value (in­clud­ing the homestead ex­emp­tion) to de­term­ine one’s an­nu­al prop­erty tax bill.

Prop­erty own­ers have un­til Oct. 7 to file an ap­peal with the Board of Re­vi­sion of Taxes.

Tax bills will be mailed on or about Dec. 9 of next year. Taxes are due by March 31, 2014.

City voters in 2010 over­whelm­ingly voted to cre­ate the Of­fice of Prop­erty As­sess­ment. Pre­vi­ously, the Board of Re­vi­sion of Taxes handled as­sess­ments and ap­peals. Now, the BRT handles only ap­peals.

The city passed a budget last June that in­cluded the third con­sec­ut­ive in­crease in prop­erty taxes.

The first two tax hikes had been billed as “tem­por­ary,” but be­came per­man­ent. The third tax in­crease was meant to provide $20 mil­lion to the School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia.

In the last three years, prop­erty taxes in Phil­adelphia have in­creased al­most 18 per­cent.

As for the homestead ex­emp­tion, Wax­man en­cour­aged homeown­ers to call the OPA hot­line at                                      215-686-9200. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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