Inaccurate property assessments leave many property owners either paying more or less than their fair share of property taxes. Incorrect assessments are common throughout Pennsylvania because years or decades pass between countywide reassessments. Delaware County was recently ordered by a judge to revalue all of its properties because they are so over- or under-assessed. For the first time in more than 20 years, every property in Delaware County will have a new assessment — and a new tax bill — by 2021, following homeowner lawsuits that resulted in a court order.
Property assessments are legal values established by counties that determine tax bills. The countywide reassessment will distribute the tax burden more fairly, but it will create winners and losers. An analysis of the most recently available state tax data showed that roughly 37 percent of Delaware County properties are overassessed. Delaware County property owners are slated to receive notice of their new assessments in 2020, and they will be able to file appeals before they are taxed the new amounts in 2021. The process could set off reassessments in other counties.
An analysis by the Inquirer and Daily News of sales and property records and state data shows that more than 210,000 homeowners in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties could be overpaying their taxes, thereby helping to subsidize the tax bills of an equal number that are underpaying. Pennsylvania does not require its counties to perform regular reassessments, although the International Association of Assessing Officers recommends they be done annually. Close to two decades have passed since appraisals were completed in Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties, and Bucks County’s last assessment was in 1972.
A legislative task force formed a year ago to address the fairness of Pennsylvania’s property assessment system. According to a task force member, a “self-assessment tool” is being developed with objective criteria that county assessors and taxpayers can use to compare counties and figure out whether reassessment is needed.
What does this mean for this year’s taxes? Chester, Delaware, Montgomery Counties will all remain the same in 2018. Total budgets for each county are as follows:
- Chester County – $526.1 million
- Delaware County – $650 million
- Montgomery County – $403.2 million