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://opaphila.org/homestead/OPAConfirmation.aspx
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org