4 ways to pay less property tax in Philadelphia
There are programs that help reduce your property tax bill, and some are open to everyone. Here's what you need to know.
On May 9, the city released its first property reassessment in three years. Residential assessments are rising by 31% citywide, which could mean a hike in property taxes for many homeowners. For some, especially longtime residents of heavily gentrified areas, this can have a big impact on their finances.
But there is some relief available.
“You should apply to programs as soon as possible,” says lawyer Jonathan Sgro, who works on homeownership and consumer rights at Community Legal Services (CLS), especially because there isn’t a lot of time between getting your new property assessment and the deadline for appealing it.
Here are some programs that can help you make your property taxes more affordable:
Homestead Exemption Program
If you own and live in a property, and don’t have a 10-year residential tax abatement, chances are you qualify for this city program. There are no income or age requirements. And yes, if you are still paying your mortgage, are behind on your taxes, or have a tangled title, you can still apply.
This program works by reducing your home-assessed value by $45,000. So, for example, if your property’s assessed value is $200,000, the Homestead Exemption will reduce it to $155,000, and you will pay the 1.3998% property tax on $155,000, not on the full assessed value. You can save an average of $629 a year on property taxes, according to the city and CLS.
Deadline: The deadline to apply is Dec. 1, but if you want the deduction to apply to your 2023 property tax bill, the city recommends you apply by Sept. 13. If you are accepted, you will continue to have the Homestead Exemption for as long as you own and live in the property, without ever having to reapply.
Longtime Owner Occupants Program (LOOP)
If you have owned and lived in your home for at least 10 years, have seen your property assessment increase by at least 50% this year, and your property taxes are up-to-date, LOOP might be for you. This program works as a cap: It prevents your property assessment from increasing by more than 50%, which helps stop your taxes from going up.
According to Sgro, this is particularly helpful if you live in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. But because it requires a huge increase in your assessment, “most homeowners do not qualify for LOOP,” he says. If you are eligible, Sgro recommends applying because “it can lower your taxes more than the Homestead Exemption program will.” Once you’re accepted into the program, you don’t have to reapply every year.
Eligibility: To apply, your yearly income has to fall within a set income cap, depending on your family size. Currently, it’s set at $110,700 for a single person and $158,100 for a family of four.
Deadline: The deadline is Feb. 17 for that year’s taxes; however, you may be able to apply after that date. Call 215-686-9200 to check.
📪 You can only apply by mail (in English, Spanish, and Chinese).
This senior citizen real estate tax freeze will stop your property taxes from going up, even if you live in a cooperative property, by locking your tax rate and property assessment from the moment you are accepted into the program. So, even if those values increase, you won’t have to pay more. (If they go down, though, your taxes will also go down.) Once you’re accepted into the program, you don’t have to reapply every year.
Eligibility: Not everyone is eligible for this program: You have to meet both the age and income requirements:
Age requirements: You can apply if you are at least 65 years old, live with a spouse who is at least 65, or if you are a widow who is at least 50, and whose spouse was 65 years old or older when they died.
Income requirements: $33,500 or less for a single person; or $41,500 or less for married couples.
Deadline:Jan. 31, 2023 for that year’s taxes; however, you may be able to apply after that date. Call 215-686-6442 to check.
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Owner Occupied Payment Agreement (OOPA)
If you are behind on your taxes or can’t afford to pay them, the Owner Occupied Payment Agreement can help. Through OOPA, you can make affordable monthly payments — based on your income and household size — on past-due taxes. You don’t need a down payment to sign up. Once you’re accepted into the program, you don’t have to reapply every year.
Eligibility: To qualify, you have to own the house you pay property taxes for.
Deadline: You can apply at any time in the year.
The Philadelphia Inquirer is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push toward economic justice. See all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.