Taxpayers must confirm BRT hearing requests by July 31

Any­one who is ap­peal­ing a real es­tate as­sess­ment with the Board of Re­vi­sion of Taxes should have been keep­ing an eye on the mail.

The BRT began no­ti­fy­ing some tax­pay­ers that they won’t get their hear­ings be­fore the body un­less they con­firm in writ­ing that they want those hear­ings — by Ju­ly 31.

Carla Pa­gan, the BRT’s ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or, said the agency began mail­ing the no­tices to a few hun­dred tax­pay­ers on Ju­ly 1. They were sent to people who got Homestead Ex­emp­tions on their prop­er­ties and were ap­peal­ing the new as­sess­ments they re­ceived in spring 2013. 

The Homestead Ex­emp­tion al­lows own­ers who live in their homes to shave $30,000 off their as­sess­ments for tax pur­poses. If a house is as­sessed at $130,000 and the own­er has the ex­emp­tion, the own­er will pay city real es­tate taxes on just $100,000. The sav­ings amount to about $400.

A North­east Times read­er sup­plied the pa­per with a copy of the BRT let­ter he re­ceived last week. He said it was dated June 30, but mailed on Ju­ly 16.

In the let­ter, tax­pay­ers who are ap­peal­ing their as­sess­ments are asked if they knew their 2014 taxes are go­ing down, and that, in light of that, do they still want to have or­al hear­ings be­fore the BRT. The let­ter fur­ther states that, if the tax­pay­ers don’t con­firm they still want their hear­ings in writ­ing, their cases will be handled ad­min­is­trat­ively by the agency. Tax­pay­ers are told they can ap­peal any BRT de­cisions they don’t like in court.

In an email to the pa­per, Pa­gan char­ac­ter­ized the re­sponse as “quiet.”

Any­one who has any con­cerns should call BRT at 215-686-9283, ac­cord­ing to Pa­gan. “We an­swer our phones and care about prop­erty own­ers’ needs be­ing met,” she wrote.

The read­er who sup­plied the let­ter to the pa­per wasn’t as char­it­able in his as­sess­ment. BRT’s as­sump­tion that any­one who doesn’t re­spond to the let­ter is will­ing to give up his or her right to an as­sess­ment ap­peal hear­ing is a pretty big as­sump­tion, he said. North­east Re­altor Chris Ar­tur agreed. “How do they know?” he asked.

The read­er, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied, also said he didn’t think the 10 days between the day he got the let­ter and the BRT’s dead­line for a re­sponse was enough time to think things over, make a de­cision, write a re­sponse and mail it.

Walt Spen­cer, who ad­vises the Crosstown Co­ali­tion, an as­so­ci­ation of civic groups in Cen­ter City and the river wards on tax is­sues, last week said he thought the BRT’s let­ter was “poor pub­lic policy.”

Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill (R-10th dist.) last week said that he thought the let­ter was “kind of in­ter­est­ing” and one way the BRT is try­ing to handle its back­log of ap­peals. There are more than 10,000 ap­peals still to be pro­cessed. He said he didn’t think BRT would give any­one trouble about get­ting a hear­ing if the dead­line were missed.

“I think they’re try­ing to act in the pub­lic’s best in­terest,” he said, but ad­ded, “I think they’ll be gen­er­ous.”

He said he and his staffers would help any­one who wanted to get a BRT hear­ing who missed the Ju­ly 31 dead­line. ••

Ex­cerpt from a let­ter to se­lect tax­pay­ers from the Board of Re­vi­sion of Taxes:

Do you know that your Homestead Ex­emp­tion was ap­proved and now your 2014 real es­tate tax has gone down?

In light of that fact, we would as­sume you have no in­terest in ap­pear­ing at an or­al hear­ing. In­stead, we will handle your ap­peal ad­min­is­trat­ively based on the doc­u­ments be­fore us and send you a writ­ten no­tice of our de­cision.

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