Main Street County Annex
Bloomsburg, PA 17815
Frequently Asked Questions About Property Assessment in Columbia County
What is a property assessment?
An assessment is a percentage (referred to or known as the Predetermined Ratio) of the "Market Value" of your property. The assessment is the foundation which the taxing authorities use to determine the amount of taxes based on their rates.
Who actually sets my assessment?
The Columbia County Board of Assessment Appeals and its employees.
What is the Columbia County Board of Assessment?
All counties within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have a Board of Assessments which has the responsibility to administer assessments. The Board is comprised of the County Commissioners. The Board was specially created by the Pennsylvania Legislature to assess all real estate in the County for taxing authorities. The Board has the authority to make annual assessments of Real Property for taxation purposes. One of the Board's duties is hearing assessment appeals.
What is meant by "uniform" assessment rate?
A "uniform" assessment rate means that all properties in the County, whether residential, commercial or industrial will be assessed at the same ratio to market value. This ensures that every property owner is fairly assessed.
What is "Market Value?" Market Value has been defined by the 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 legal uses to which the property can be adapted and might reasonably be applied."
Isn't "Market Value" what I paid for my property?
Not always. Depending on the circumstances involved in a sale, some people may have overpaid for a property. On the other hand, others may have purchased their property at a bargain price. Properties purchased years ago are not reflective of what properties are worth today. The true test is what is your property worth TODAY.
What is the difference between an assessment and taxes?
The assessment is the basis used by the County, Boroughs, Townships and school districts to levy taxes. The assessment is determined by using the following formula:
MARKET VALUE x ASSESSMENT RATIO = ASSESSMENT
The assessor does not set the tax rates. The assessor only sets the assessment based on a determination of the market value of your property. The individual taxing authorities set the tax rates for their respective municipality and school districts which are then applied to the assessment to determine the taxes due.
How do I appeal my assessment?
By simply completing an assessment appeal form. You may make your request for an appeal form by telephone, in writing, or may pick up one at the Columbia County Board of Assessment Appeals' office. It is important that you keep in mind that there are two (2) different types of appeals:
(1.) ANNUAL: Must be filed on or before September 1 of the year preceding the tax year appealed (e.g. September 1, 2008 for the 2009 tax year).
(2.) INTERIM: Must be filed within forty (40) days of the mail date on the assessment change notification.
It is important that the appeal form be completed accurately, indicating proper mailing address, the location of the property being appealed, the parcel number (the parcel number may appear as the account number on your bill), and that you have signed the appeal. A separate form must be used for each property being appealed.
What happens after I file an assessment appeal?
The Board of Assessment Appeals' office will set a hearing date and notify you and the appropriate taxing authorities at least twenty (20) days prior to the hearing date.
What happens at the hearing?
The Board presides over the hearing. At the hearing, the burden of proof rests with the taxpayer. The property owner should introduce evidence, such as recent completed sales of similar homes in the neighborhood. The Board requires that the taxpayer or his designee be present at the hearing. If you are unable to attend you may appoint someone to appearon your behalf to testify for you by completing a notarized Power of Attorney. You may also hire an attorney to represent you at the hearing. Attorneys should attach a letter of authorization when filing an appeal on behalf of the property owner. Questions may be asked by the Board of all parties in attendance.
How do I prove value?
Proving the value can be accomplished by the property owner doing one of the following:
(1.) checking the listing of actual completed sales of similar homes in the neighborhood, or
(2.) hiring an appraiser to appraise the appealed property.
What happens after the hearing?
The Board deliberates and renders a decision in writing. As a result of the hearing the assessment may be raised, remain the same, or be lowered. No one should assume that by filing an appeal, a reduction will granted. Within five (5) days, a written notice of the decision of the Board is sent by first-class mail to the property owner.
What happens if I don't agree with the Board's decision?
The property owner and taxing authorities have thirty (30) days from the mailing date on the notice of the Board's decision to file a Petition with the Court of Common Pleas of Columbia County.
Are there programs available for those who have hardship cases?
There are program available for disabled veterans and senior citizens. To receive information with regard to disabled veterans, please contact Veterans Affairs at (570) 387-6501.
To receive information with regard to senior citizens there are property tax rebate forms which are available through the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue at (610) 270-1780 or by contacting the Area Agency on Aging at (570) 784-9272.
Whom do I contact if I need information regarding tax rates and tax dollars?
Contact the local tax collector in your township or borough.