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Tax Appeal Victory in Philadelphia

Anyone who has ever opened a shockingly high real estate tax bill has wondered, however briefly, whether they can file a tax appeal to dispute the assessed value of their home.

The short answer: yes! The longer answer: yes… but it can take more than a year, plenty of paperwork, and loads of bureaucratic nonsense. Most people don’t want to be bothered with that level of “administrivia,” which is why one client (we will call him Mr. Harrison) hired the business attorneys at Kenny, Burns & McGill. Attorney Eileen Burns took this case to the finish line and got a huge victory for our client.

Mr. Harrison lives in Hawaii and owns real estate in Philadelphia, which he leases to tenants. When Mr. Harrison purchased the property half a dozen years ago, it was a complete fixer-upper. He invested time and effort to make it safe and comfortable for his future tenants.

However, when his first tax bill arrived, he was shocked to see that the City had been fully taxing the property for years, without taking into account the fact that the property was little more than a brick shell. Mr. Harrison was suddenly responsible for a huge tax payment which he did not think he should have to pay. [As an aside, you can check the value of your Philadelphia property by clicking here.]

Mr. Harrison promptly hired Kenny, Burns & McGill to sort the whole mess out for him. Our attorneys have decades of experience in real estate, tax law, and administrative proceedings before the various municipal offices involved in adjusting tax values for properties in Philadelphia.

We immediately got to work, filing a Market Value Appeal for the years during which the City had mistakenly taxed the property as a complete, habitable residence. Since several years had already elapsed, we had to file the appeal retroactively (or “nunc pro tunc,” Latin for “now for then”).

Since we were forced to file nunc pro tunc, we had to first convince the Board of Revision of Taxes to consider a late appeal in the first place. We filed the appropriate paperwork, ferried it through the proper administrative channels, and were ultimately granted permission to file the appeal.

We then drafted, compiled, and submitted the appeal to the Board of Revision of Taxes. We included evidence of past tax history, the condition of the property, and other information which supported our client’s case. While we requested an in-person hearing for the appeal, the Board didn’t even see it necessary. They granted our tax appeal based on the written submission alone, and retroactively adjusted the value of the property downward.

Of course, the bureaucratic nonsense did not stop there. Since Mr. Harrison was now due a large tax refund, he requested the balance from the City Revenue Department. They denied his refund, because the money due to him was tax revenue from more than five years ago, which the Revenue Department claimed they do not have the authority to dispense to him.

That excuse is ridiculous on its face, and Attorney Eileen Burns appealed the Refund Petition Denial to the Tax Review Board. Ms. Burns took the case to a full hearing, arguing that the City had already agreed to go back and adjust the taxable value of the property; to refuse to refund Mr. Harrison’s money that he paid on the old tax value would be entirely inequitable.

The hearing examiner at the Tax Review Board could not help but agree with Ms. Burns’s logic. They granted our appeal and Mr. Harrison, who has had money tied up in this matter for years, was finally granted his refund from our successful tax appeal.

Mr. Harrison’s tax refund windfall is more important now than ever, considering the fraught state of the economy. We fight hard for our clients every single day and love to fix difficult issues, especially when the result can change a client’s life.

Do you, your business, or someone you know need help with a tax appeal or a different administrative issue? Kenny, Burns & McGill has litigated (and won) cases in almost every administrative venue in Philadelphia: Tax Review Board, Zoning Board of Adjustment, Office of Property Assessment, Office of Administrative Review, Board of Revision of Taxes, License and Inspection Review Board…. the list goes on!

Contact us today for a free consultation and learn how we can support your business goals and protect your investments. We handle all manner of civil litigation and business issues. Call or text (215) 423-5500 for more information.

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    1500 John F. Kennedy Boulevard
    Suite 520
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102
    Phone: 215-423-5500
    Fax: 215-231-9847
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