profile picture

English Spanish




Whether you live in either Lehigh or Northampton County, it is your right as a tax payer of real estate property taxes to file an appeal on your tax assessment.  This is what determines how many dollars you pay for your 3 property taxes.  This is not known by most owners, and taken up, by very few.

Lehigh County was last reassessed in 1991.

Northampton County was last reassessed in 1995.

In English, this means that every property in these counties is based on values AT THAT TIME.  For example if your house sold in Lehigh County for $100,000 you were reassessed at that time of a predetermined value of 50%, or $50,000.  Today in almost 2012, this is STILL your assessment.

There have been articles in the local papers calling for the reassessment of the entire counties "to level the playing field".  This is untrue, because "the field has always BEEN level".   What keeps this level is "STEB".  The State Tax Equalization Board.

What is this, is to establish a common level ratio of assessed value to market value for each county for the prior calendar year.  Act 267 of 1982 requires the State Tax Equalization Board to use statisically- acceptable techniques, to make the methodology for computing ratios public, and to certify the ratio of the chief assessor of each county each year.


Real Estate Assessment Overview in Pennsylvania

Every property owner pays real estate taxes, unless otherwise exempted, to three independent taxing districts:  the county, the municipality of the particular property, and the always spending school district.

Valuation of Property

Pennsylvania assessment laws require that real estate be valued according to its "actual value" and at a bona fide rate and price for which the property would separately sell.  The courts have interpreted actual value to mean market value.  Market value has been defined by the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court as "the price in a competitive market a purchaser willing but not obligated to buy, would pay an owner, willing but not obligated to sell, taking into consideration all the legal uses to which the property can be adapted and might reasonably be applied.  To establish the "actual value of property, the county may use current year market values or it may adopt a base year for market values.   This would the 1991 and 1995 as mentioned above.

Unless a county reassesses "all" properties "each year", the property assessments will be predicated upon base year values (the last year in which the county reassessed).  The same methodology must be used to value property throughout the county; that is, when a county adopts a base year for market value, than all property in the county must be valued as of the same base year.

When valuing property, three approaches must be considered in conjunction with one another; they are cost (reproduction or replacement, as applicable, less depreciation and all forms of obsolescence), comparable sales, and income approaches.  Although all three approaches must be considered, they do not all have to be used in arriving at the final valuation of the property.  The approach used may differ depending upon the type of property involved (e.g., commercial, residential, income-producing). 

In order not to violate the uniformity requirement, a property cannot be reassessed for taxation purposes by the county board of assessment simply because it is sold. Apart from a countywide reassessment, an individual property can only be reassessed when: (1) the property is subdividied;  (2) a physical change has been made to the property such as new construction or removal or change of existing improvements; or (3) the assessment of the property is appealed by either the property owner or the taxing district.

The sale of the property cannot lawfully trigger a reassessment by the county board of assessment regardless of the indicated purchase price.  This has been deemed "spot" reassessment by the assessment statutes and case law.  A spot assessment based on the sale of the property in question is unconstitutional under both feredal and state constitutions.  Although the county board of assessment may nont reassess an existing proeprty because it has recently been sold, the sale of a property may alert a taxing district, such as a school district to appeal the assessment based on the sales price.  Taxing districts have the same right of appeal as property owners with regard to real property assessments.  This right was upheld by the Commonwealth Count in In re Springfield School District (879 A2d 335 {Pa Cmwlth. 2005}).


Appeal of an Assessment

In an appeal, the burden of proof rests with the party bringing the appeal to produce sufficient, credible, and relevant evidence as to the value of his property once the county board of assessment establishes prima facie validity of its assessment by placing the record into evidence.  The law stipulates that an appeal does not prevent the collection of taxes upon the assessment.


In any appeal, the coard or court is required to determine the following:

        - The market value of the property as of the date such appeal was filed with the board;

        - The common level ratio published by the STEB on or before the first day of July of the year prior to the tax year being appealed to the board.

After determining the market value of the property, the county board responsible for hearing assessment appeals must then apply the established predetermined ratio to this value unless the common level ratio published by the STEB varies by more than fifteen percent (15 percent) fromt the established predetermined ratio, in which case the board shall apply that same common level ratio to the market value of the property.


Some and part of this data was obtained from the Pennsylvania Legislattor's Municipal Deskboook, The Third Edition Update (2007).



The first step in applying for a reassessment is to file with the county a simple form which is available from the county websites under the tax assessment sections.  There is no fee to do this, and they must be filed by August 1 of each year.    Ideally that is the time to have an appraisal to file with it, complete with photos, maps, and all of the documentation to strengthen your case. 

Due to basing it on 1991 and 1995, depending on where you live, this work can be done at any time of the year so long as it is ready to be submitted at that time mentioned.  I will say that as we get into the late spring and early summer, the volume rises and only a limited number of cases can be taken on.


There will be more on this as time goes on, but if you have any questions, I can gladly answer them for you.  My e-mail address is .  In the mean time, please feel free to explore my website and hopefully it will be useful to you now, or in the future.