Property Tax Assessment Appeal Deadline: Sooner Than You May Think

Property tax assessment appeals must be submitted to the Board of Revision of Taxes (BRT) by the first Monday in October, which, this year, is October 1, 2018. This is a deadline imposed by statute. See 72 P.S. Sec. 5341.14 (“Appeals from real estate assessments shall be filed on or before the first Monday of October.”).

You would not know that by looking at the first level review (FLR) decision letters being circulated by the Office of Property Assessment (OPA).

The OPA has begun (a bit belatedly) mailing decision letters with responses to property owners’ FLR applications. Here is copy of one such letter, with the owners’ information redacted:

FLR Decision Letter (Redacted)

FLR Decision Letter (Redacted)

You can see where I highlighted this letter that it is dated September 7, 2018, and advises property owners that they can appeal to the BRT “within thirty (30) days of the date of this notice.” Unfortunately for property owners, that date would be after the statutory appeal deadline, which is not discretionary. See Hanoverian, Inc. v. Lehigh Cty. Bd. of Assessment, 701 A.2d 288, 289 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1997) (“When a statute fixes the time within which an appeal may be taken, a court may not extend that time period or allow an appeal nunc pro tunc absent a showing that extraordinary circumstances involving fraud or its equivalent, duress, or coercion caused the delay in filing an appeal.") (emphasis in original).

To make matters worse, this letter was not actually sent by mail until September 11, 2018, which you can see from the time-stamp on the envelope, here:

FLR Decision Letter Envelope

FLR Decision Letter Envelope

I did not actually receive this letter until September 20, 2018, which may be the result of continuing problems with the Philadelphia city government’s internal mail distribution center, already called out once by the media for failing to timely process “court notices, fines and tax bills.”

Is it likely that the BRT or the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas would prevent a property owner some avenue of relief if she was confused by letters, like those above, with confusing dates that explicitly invite taxpayers to file appeals after the deadline? Maybe not. Could filing after the statutory deadline cause huge headaches by creating an obstacle—i.e., requiring you to prove you filed in time—in addition to the one you already face in trying to get an assessment reduction for either you or your client? Yes.

Appeal applications can be found here and have detailed instructions. The BRT instructions also indicate that taxpayers can file after the statutory deadline.  However, this does not eliminate the potential for problems due to the contradiction between the instructions and the statutory mandate. It is much safer to follow the statute and submit your application by October 1st.

In short, to avoid any additional problems produced by choosing to rely on an arbitrary timeframe created by the OPA in violation of the statute, I would NOT file after October 1st. However, if you blow the deadline and happen to have gotten one of these letters, you have a much better case for a successful petition to appeal nunc pro tunc (filing “then as now”) to allow you to have a late appeal application approved.


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