Monday, April 06, 2020

Tax Collector's Blog

Tax Collection FAQ

Below are some common questions that I get asked and their answers:

 

Q. Does the local tax collector have the authority to change the millage rates or the assessment values?

A. No.

 

Q. Can the tax collector forgive penalty amounts on delinquent tax?

A. No. Tax collectors do not have the authority to set the amount of taxes, discounts or penalties incurred on the tax bills. However, there are various programs available that provide reductions for homeowners, senior citizens and our disabled veterans. For more information, see below.

 

Q. Why do I have three blue school district tax bills and only one yellow borough tax bill?

A. You have three blue school district tax bills in case you would like to pay in installments. The Borough does not allow you to pay in installments.

 

Q. Can I pay by credit card?

A. No, I only accept cash or check.

 

Q. What are the office hours of Fay Boland, Tax Collector?

A. Tuesday from 9-12 and Thursday from 12-3 through October 31st.

 

Q. What is the easiest way to contact Fay?

A. Please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call me during my office hours at 412.882.5383 x1129.

 

Q. What if I need a receipt or a bill?

A. Please call or email me. If you leave a message, please leave both a phone number and an email address so I can send you the receipt or the bill that you need.

 

Q. Why is my assessed value different on the school district bill and the borough bill?

This is because of Act 1, which was implemented when the state legislature legalized gambling. See more about Act 1 below.

 

Q. What is the Homestead Act, and do I qualify?

A: The Homestead Act (Act 50) is a program that reduces your "market value" by $20,000 for Allegheny County property taxes. To qualify for the Allegheny County Homestead Act, you must be the owner of the property and occupy the dwelling as your primary residence.

The application deadline is March 1 of each year. You do not have to reapply once your application is approved. Once you have filed, your exemption will remain in effect until you sell/transfer the property or change your occupancy. In addition, if you have previously filed and qualified for the Act 50 exclusion, you are automatically registered for the Act 1 program.


Q. Why isn't the Homestead Exclusion applied to my property?

A: You must apply under Act 50 if you purchase a property. Additionally, if there is a name change to your deed, you must file a new Act 50 application. For example, if you transfer your deed to your maiden name, the Allegheny County Homestead Exclusion will be removed at the end of the year unless your reapply. If you believe the Homestead Exclusion should be applied and have filed your application, contact the Allegheny County Treasurer's Office at 412-350-4100. You also must have applied, filed and been qualified by March 1st of the current tax year in order for Act 50 to be applied to your eligible tax statements for the current tax year.

 

Q. Do I have to apply every year for the Homestead Exclusion?

A: No, you don't have to apply again if you remain the property owner, you haven't filed a deed transfer, and it continues to be your primary residence.

 

Q. Can a homeowner have more than one Homestead Exclusion?

A: No, a homeowner is eligible for the Homestead Exclusion only for his/her primary residence. Any other Homestead Exclusions will be removed, and the owner is subject to interest, penalties and fines up to $2,500.

 

Q. Who sets taxation rates?

A: The Brentwood Borough and Brentwood School District tax millage is set by Brentwood Borough Council and the Brentwood School District Board, respectively.

 

Senior Citizen Property Tax Relief Program

This program entitles all qualified applicants in Allegheny County to a flat 30% discount of the property tax on their primary residence for each year they are eligible. Qualified applicants will also receive an additional 2% discount by paying their county taxes in full by May 31. A second payment option allows eligible taxpayers (if they choose) to pay their gross county taxes in two equal installment payments, the first payment due by July 2 and the second payment by October 31.


Once approved, a qualified applicant continues to receive tax relief as long as the applicant is the property owner/occupant and household income does not exceed $30,000. Applicants are no longer required to file annually. Some Allegheny County municipalities offer a similar discount to the local property tax if the applicant meets the county requirements.

 

To be eligible for Senior Citizen Property Tax Relief Program, the applicant must meet all three requirements:

 

1. Property Ownership:
Must have owned and occupied a primary residence in Allegheny County continuously for the past 10 years. A home owner who has moved within the past 10 years, and has continued to own and occupy the new property as a primary residence shall be eligible.

 

2. Age:
Must be age 60 or older. If married, either spouse must be age 60, OR
Be a widow or widower age 50 to 60 years, OR
Be permanently disabled and age 18 to 60 years.


The applicant must meet the required age by December 31, 2015, to qualify for tax relief in 2015.

 

3. Income:
Gross household income must be $30,000 or less.
For calculating income, use only 50% of your Social Security, SSI, and Railroad Retirement Tier 1 Benefits (except Medicare benefits).

The deadline to file for relief is July 31.

 

Navigating the Real Estate Market

 

As tax collector, I constantly get questions about real estate taxes from people who are buying or selling a house. In my 20s —some years ago — I bought my first house in Pittsburgh. When I signed the final paperwork at the escrow office to close, I did not read the entire contract. And I did not fully understand those parts that I did read, including the HUD-1, which had a lot of numbers relevant to both the seller and the buyer. When I asked the escrow officer to explain it, he did so quickly, and I still did not understand it all. I was young and trusting at the time, and the HUD-1 was standard, so I didn't want to create a scene.

 

I am now an older, wiser, and more experienced person who has bought and sold several properties.  I realize now that I was a dimwit for allowing that first escrow officer to get away with giving such a quick answer. What I gained from this experience is the understanding that it is my responsibility to read every last word of all closing documents and to gain a firm understanding before agreeing to anything.

 

I have learned that I have the right to demand a copy of all legal documents that will have to be signed in advance of the actual settlement (escrow) date. You should be able to review those documents at least two to three days in advance.  The HUD-1 is a form used by the settlement agent (also called the closing agent) to itemize all charges imposed upon a borrower and seller for a real estate transaction. It gives each party a complete list of incoming and outgoing funds.  Fees associated with the transaction but that arepaid prior to closing are also included on the HUD-1. They are normally marked "POC (Paid Outside of Closing).  Oftentimes, entries may still be added just a few hours before closing. Most buyers and sellers study the statement on their own, with their real estate agent, and again with the settlement agent. Remember, the more people who review the statement, the more likely it will be that errors are detected.  Don't assume that the closing agent is always correct; mistakes can happen. Ask as many questions as necessary to help you understand all charges.

 

If you are planning to sell or buy a home, you should thoroughly review the HUD-1 form. One of the easiest ways to learn about the HUD-1 is to search for this topic online. There are a variety of professional articles explaining this process and providing instructions fo completing the form.

 

Remember, buying or selling a house may be the largest financial transaction you will make in your life, and understanding the transaction should be a priority for you. If you do not understand what a document is saying, then you should ask questions until you do. People “kick the tires” when purchasing a new or used car.  You should give the legal documents on a real estate purchase a similar high level of attention.

 

Fay Boland, CPA

Brentwood Tax Collector