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 ••