Thursday, March 6, 2008
In an effort to uncover uncollected revenue, Allegheny County Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty has begun conducting a review of the Office of Property Assessment's Homestead exclusion records to identify ineligible claims for exemption. Flaherty says that discussions with County Council led to legislation that clarifies the controller's authority to locate irregularities in the granting of homestead exemptions. Homestead exemptions are meant only for the primary residence of the property owner. In December 2003, Council and the County Executive approved a change to the Homestead Exclusion Act whereby the first $15,000 in assessed valued would be excluded from county property taxes. Flaherty says it's plausible that his initial review of Homestead Exclusions will result in the discovery of significant back taxes owed to the county. He says violators will first be sent a letter and if they don't respond Council and the Chief Executive can develop the mechanism to collect the back taxes. In addition, the penalty for filing a false applications is a fine up to $2,500. Flaherty estimates there are more than 100,000 properties that now received the Homestead exemption. Flaherty expects to complete the review in a couple of weeks.