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In case you haven’t heard, Philadelphia is undergoing the largest and most drastic overhauling of its real estate tax system ever.
This overhaul goes by the name “Actual Value Initiative,” or AVI – a name that refers (not so subtly) to the notoriously inaccurate property assessments across the city maintained by the Board of Revision of Taxes, BRT. For decades now, some properties have been over-assessed and many have been under-assessed, meaning Philadelphia property owners have been paying respectively more or less — far less, in many cases — in real estate taxes than the market, or “actual,” value of their house would merit.
That is supposed to change this year. Every property in the city will soon have a new assessment — one that can be appealed but which is otherwise legally binding.
The city’s Office of Property Assessments, which replaced the BRT, is in the process of finishing a complete reassessment of every property in the city. Once completed, those assessments will be paired with a new, lower tax rate which council is expected to pass this spring, and mailed to homeowners in the form of a tax bill — one that in many cases will look very different than it did the year before. Some residents will be pleased, some undoubtedly will not.
Exactly what the tax will be and what sort of exemptions may apply has yet to be hammered out in City Council. Nutter has said it will need to be at least 1.3 percent to cover city spending. That rate may climb if council members build in discounts for certain types of property owners, such as homeowners, or long time residents of rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods.
There are a number of hurdles, deadlines, and dates that accompany this process. Here, in a nutshell, they are.
February 2013 — Residents should receive their individual assessments by mail. These assessments are not tax bills, and will not, in fact, be able to tell you exactly what you’ll be paying, since you won’t yet know the new tax rate. Residents who applied for homestead exemptions after the November 13, 2012 deadline won’t see the exemption reflected here, but can still apply for the exemption.
Appeals – If you dispute your assessment, you can file a challenge with the Office of Property Assessment until the end of March. (If your challenge is denied, you can later appeal that decision to the Board of Revision of Taxes.)
March, 2013 — Mayor Nutter will formally introduce his proposed budget for the Fiscal Year 2014. This proposal lays out a framework for budget negotiations going forward. The mayor has proposed that the transition to AVI be revenue neutral, meaning he would like to see the new real estate tax bring in the same total amount of revenue that it did under the old assessment system. City Council will ultimately decide whether to bring in more or less revenue from the new tax.
March 31, 2013: Deadline for appealing property assessments.
Budget Hearings: Beginning in March and ending in June, City Council will hold hearings on the mayor’s proposed budget and the on performance, needs, and plans of city departments in general. These hearings will likely be a forum for discussion and debate around the implementation of AVI.
July, 1, 2013: Fiscal year 2014 begins.
July 31, 2013: The final deadline to apply for homestead exemptions for fiscal year 2014.
October 7, 2013: The final deadline to appeal your property assessment to the Board of Revision of Taxes.
December 9, 2013 —2014 tax bills, reflecting the new numbers, will be mailed out.
March 2014: Taxes are due.
May 2015: The city’s 2015 Democratic primary election, in which voters will pick the likely next mayor, looms over every facet of this process. The transition to AVI will affect every resident in the city and the political fallout may be significant.