Time’s running out to apply for homestead exemption property tax break

homestead exemption property taxes broke no money
You don’t want to look like this guy when you get your property tax bill, and the city of Philly wants to help.
Credit: Rikard Larma / Metro

The city of Philadelphia wants less of your money – when it comes to property taxes, anyway.

Officials are gearing up for next year’s switch to the Actual Value Initiative, under which properties will be taxed based on their true market value rather than a predefined rate.

They’re aggressively advertising the homestead exemption, which will knock $30,000 off the assessed value of 100 percent owner-occupied properties, saving homeowners up to $402 on their tax bills.

The only catch? People have to apply.

“As of Aug. 16, we had just over 205,000 applications approved,” Office of Property Assessment spokeswoman Kate Dreher said.

“We know that there are, based on the various data sources we’ve pulled together, approximately 320,000 to 340,000 eligible homeowners in the city, so we know that there are definitely still a number of homeowners who have not yet taken advantage.”

That’s despite a campaign that’s included community information sessions, radio spots, posters at local grocery stores and fliers slipped into water bills and sent home with school students.

The city has also targeted publicity efforts to certain neighborhoods where the fewest number of homeowners have applied.

“Parts of North Philadelphia down into Southwest Philadelphia are typically where we’ve seen the lowest number of enrollment rates,” Dreher said.

“So we’ve definitely been trying to target our outreach through a number of ways to reach these populations in an effort just to get the word out about the program.”

One of the problems, according to Dreher, may have been information overload. Mayor Michael Nutter initially pushed for AVI to take effect this fiscal year, so outreach efforts began early.

“We’ve been doing this project now for over a year,” Dreher said.

“We started rolling it out last June, and we had really bombarded people with information in the beginning. There was a packet sent out to all homeowners last September with a letter from the mayor, a brochure and an application, so we kind of feel like we overloaded people with information.”

The city is now simplifying the message, encouraging anyone who thinks they may be eligible to call the homestead exemption hotline.

“We’re really pushing that hotline and telling people, ‘Call this number. It will save you money,’ Dreher said.

“There is no downside to applying for the program.”

But residents have less than three weeks to take action – the deadline is Sept. 13.

And the city says that’s final – for real, this time.

“The deadline has been pushed back a few times. Sept. 13 is the final deadline for 2014,” Dreher said.

“People are perhaps maybe thinking we’ll extend it again, but I think between our outreach – especially door-to-door, and we’re also doing ads on SEPTA – I think there will be a spike in the applications we receive.”

Who is eligible?

>> Homeowners of all ages and incomes whose property serves as their primary residence.

>> Owner-occupiers who have tax delinquencies.

>> Owners who live in mixed use properties, who can receive the exemption for the portion of the property they use as their primary residence.

How to apply

>> Call the homestead exemption hotline at 215-686-9200 (TTY 215-515-5010) to see if you’re eligible and to apply.

>> Visit the OPA’s homestead exemption website to download a blank application form.

>> Apply online by filling out the OPA’s digital application.


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