Judge orders Philly to repay millions for incorrectly taxing commercial properties

Pat Loeb
July 19, 2019 - 6:18 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia officials say they will likely appeal a Common Pleas Court order that they return $48 million to the owners of some of the city's most valuable property.

The judge ruled in a lawsuit brought by property owners who said their tax assessments were unfairly increased.

Judge Gene Cohen ruled the city violated the state tax uniformity clause because its property value reassessments in 2018 focused almost solely on commercial properties.

The city had argued that its residential property assessments were already close to market value, after the 2017 assessments; but that commercial properties were greatly undervalued and therefore more urgent to assess.

However, the judge found the city had succumbed to "political pressure" from city council to increase revenues, and that's why they focused on commercial property.

As proof, he cites an email from Councilman Allan Domb telling the finance director commercial values needed to be adjusted. That was a big surprise to Domb.

“I don't feel any political pressure was applied when you ask the executive branch of government to do their job accurately,” he said.

Domb is, himself, a commercial property owner, though not a party to the suit.

“It's only fair that every Philadelphia property owner pays their fair share of real estate taxes,” he said.

omb is particularly concerned about the school district, which would have to pay $34 million under the ruling. The city has 30 days to appeal.