Homeowners: If you could save $200 per year by investing 15 minutes of time and one postage stamp, would you do it? Of course, you say, but HAVE you done it? Property tax law provides just such savings to every Pennsylvanian who owns the home they live in - - it’s termed as a “Homestead Exclusion” because it excludes part of your home’s value from school taxation. You register by submitting a simple one-page form, and then you get a reduction of your school tax every year as long as you live in that home! Savings vary by school district but tend to be $150-250, averaging $208, in Chester County.
If you are not sure you are getting the benefit, just do the following. (And, if at any point you have questions, just pick up the phone and call the Chester County Assessment Office at 610-344-6105; they are friendly and helpful; they want everyone to get their rightful benefit but they cannot do it without your signature on the correct form.)
First, pull out your last school tax bill - - it should show a number in a box labeled “Homestead Exclusion,” or similar - - if not, proceed as follows. Print the form from the county’s website, https://www.chesco.org/254/Homestead-Farmstead-Exclusion-Program, or call the county’s number above to get a form mailed to you. Carefully read, complete, and sign the form.
The first question is, “Do you use this property as your primary residence?” Most homeowners will answer “Yes,” to this question and “No” to all the others; but read all questions to make sure you answer accurately. Finally, mail the form to the address listed, which is the ChesCo Assessment Office. That’s it! It’s easy, and so worth the effort!
Additional information: Forms must arrive by March 1, 2019 in order to reduce your school taxes in 2019. Late forms will be applied to the following years. Each application receives a written answer from the county. Since the credit repeats automatically every year, you bear the responsibility to tell the county if something changes in future years that may disqualify you - - for example, if you move out of the home and begin renting it out.
If you run a business from your home or if you farm your property, the same form applies, just be sure to answer each question properly, and you will likely qualify for the credit.
Not in Chester County? The benefit is state-wide, so, if you live outside Chester County, you should still make sure to get the credit. Here are some starting points for nearby counties: http://www.co.berks.pa.us/Dept/Assessment/Pages/HomesteadFarmsteadExclusion.aspx
Authors’ note: We wrote this column after our volunteer work led us to realize that many homeowners are missing out on this tax relief. This article applies to every homeowner. We hope to write another article in the Spring that will be of great importance to those who own mobile homes on rented lots.