Northeast Times

Councilwoman, volunteers promote tax break

When is a tax break not a tax break?

When you don’t get it.

“We have 2,100 houses that have not taken ad­vant­age of the Homestead Ex­emp­tion,” an aide to City Coun­cil­wo­man Maria Quinones Sanc­hez told Frank­ford res­id­ents Aug. 29.

And Jason Dawkins was talk­ing about only Frank­ford’s 23rd Ward. Throughout the coun­cil­wo­man’s 7th Dis­trict, there are many, many more homeown­ers who have not ap­plied for the Homestead Ex­emp­tion who could shave an av­er­age of $400 off loc­al real es­tate tax bills, he ad­ded.

“We have 19,000 doors we have to hit” in the coun­cil­wo­man’s dis­trict, Dawkins said.

Dawkins and five vo­lun­teers were out in Frank­ford last week, knock­ing on doors and telling res­id­ents how they could save some money. 

The Homestead Ex­emp­tion is easy to ex­plain and easy to get, Dawkins told mem­bers of the North­east EPIC Stake­hold­ers dur­ing their meet­ing at the Second Baptist Church of Frank­ford.

A homeown­er who gets the ex­emp­tion will sub­tract $30,000 from the new as­sess­ments they re­ceived this year be­fore fig­ur­ing out their taxes. For ex­ample, a house as­sessed at $50,000 will be taxed at only $20,000 of its value. That doesn’t mean the house is worth only $20,000; it just means the own­er got a tax break. 

Own­ers who live in their homes are eli­gible to ap­ply for the Homestead Ex­emp­tion by an­swer­ing a few simple ques­tions on a one-page form, Dawkins said. Not all those eli­gible for the ex­emp­tion have ap­plied for it, city of­fi­cials and of­fice­hold­ers have said.

They’ve taken steps to en­cour­age homeown­ers to ap­ply. They’ve taken out ads, talked the ex­emp­tion up at pub­lic meet­ings and knocked on doors, and they’re mys­ti­fied that thou­sands of house­hold­ers have not taken ad­vant­age of the city ac­tu­ally giv­ing them a break.

The best thing to do is ap­ply, Dawkins said.

“You might not even know you are eli­gible,” he said.

The coun­cil­wo­man has bought TV slots to pro­mote the ex­emp­tion, Dawkins said. But some people still don’t know the ex­emp­tion ex­ists, Dawkins said, and when told about it, they’re sus­pi­cious.

“They think it’s too good to be true,” he said.

It’s true, and so is the fact that the time to ap­ply for the Homestead Ex­emp­tion is run­ning out. The dead­line is Sept. 13. Own­ers can call the Homestead Hot Line at 215-686-9200 to ap­ply over the phone.

“This year, the city’s new fair, ac­cur­ate and un­der­stand­able prop­erty tax sys­tem will take ef­fect. Our Ad­min­is­tra­tion has been work­ing di­li­gently to en­sure that every cit­izen un­der­stands the changes at hand and par­ti­cip­ates in the re­lief meas­ures avail­able to them, es­pe­cially the Homestead Ex­emp­tion,” said May­or Mi­chael A. Nut­ter. “These Tele­phone Town Halls, like the in­form­a­tion ses­sions earli­er this year, are crit­ic­al to cre­at­ing a dia­logue and keep­ing the pub­lic en­gaged. I hope that cit­izens take ad­vant­age of this im­port­ant op­por­tun­ity.”

Fin­ance Dir­ect­or Rob Dubow, Chief As­sess­ment Of­ficer Rich­ie McK­eithen and Rev­en­ue Com­mis­sion­er Clar­ena Tolson will an­swer ques­tions.

The city’s first tele­phone town hall was con­duc­ted on Sept. 3.  

In­ter­ested res­id­ents can pre-re­gister for the town hall by log­ging on to www.phila.gov or by call­ing 215-686-9200. In­di­vidu­als who pre-re­gister will re­ceive a call from the town hall when the ses­sion be­gins. Res­id­ents can also join the town hall without pre-re­gis­ter­ing by call­ing 1-877-229-8493 and us­ing the ID code 111479 dur­ing the town hall ses­sion.

For more in­form­a­tion, prop­erty own­ers can call the Of­fice of Prop­erty As­sess­ment Homestead/Ac­tu­al Value Ini­ti­at­ive hot­line at 215-686-9200 or go on­line to www.phila.gov/opa. Or vis­it avical­cu­lat­or.phila.gov to es­tim­ate prop­erty taxes for 2014.

Read a North­east Times ed­it­or­i­al on the Homestead Ex­emp­tion at ht­tp://www.north­east­times.com/2013/aug/14/ed­it­or­i­al-8-142/#.UiC13d­JJM­rU ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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