Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reassessment Tips & Tricks

So, now that you have your new assessment in hand, there are several things that you can do to help lower you property tax liability for 2012.  No, I'm not talking about appealing your assessment or making sure that you're signed up for all the appropriate tax exemptions and abatements that the City and County have to offer.  I'm talking about real, tangible ways to lower your taxes. For example:

(1) Burn down your house.  Because of the way that the City, County & School District structure their taxes, the value of your property is greatly influenced by the value of any structure that sits there upon.  So, if you have a building worth $80,000 and land worth $20,000, the combined value of the property is $100,000 and your taxes are $2,941.  Now, let's say that somehow you don't have a building anymore.  Well, then your taxes would rest solely on the value of the land ($20,000) and be only $588.20.  The savings of $2,352.80 are well worth the initial investment of a few gallons of gasoline and a packet of matches.  (Note: Most insurance agencies, fire departments, and neighbors generally frown upon arson so do your homework first.)

(2) Vandalism.  If arson doesn't sit well with your insurance company, vandalism is also a good way to help drive down your property value.  While you'll never be able to zero out the value of your structure, allowing a few windows to go broken, a porch to sag, or trash to be strewn upon your front lawn will be more than enough to reduce its value to a negligible level.  If you're lucky, you can get the neighborhood children to help you by throwing rocks at your house or spray painting graffiti on your front door.  Moreover, by decreasing the value of your property, you help to decrease the value of your neighbors' properties, allowing them to decrease their tax liability as well. 

(3) Become a violent crime king pin.  Any realtor will tell you that the three secrets to real estate are location, location, location, but those three secrets also play a part in your property assessments.  Highly valued locations are, unsurprisingly, generators of higher tax revenues; lower valued locations are the reverse.  So, if you want to lower your assessment, try making your surrounding neighborhood, what the Realtor's Association technically calls, a "shit hole."  The easiest way to do this is to become a violent crime king pin, committing all types of violent and property crimes in your area from murder to loitering and everything in between.  This will drive down the livability of your neighborhood thereby lowering the value of your location, which in turn will lower the amount of taxes you must pay. 

(4) Leave your Christmas lights up year round.  This is similar to point #3, only much more drastic and egregious.  No one really wants to live next to "those" neighbors.

(5) Hire disreputable contractors.  According to City code, when you do any improvements to a property you're supposed to let the Bureau of Building Inspection know what you're planning so that they can issue the appropriate permits.  As a side effect, these permits also flag the County Assessor's office so they know that you're making repairs or improvements to your little hovel.  As soon as they see that your contractor is done making improvements to your house, an assessor goes out and *BAM* hits you with a reassessment.  But, let's assume that you use a contractor that's less than reputable... say one that doesn't have -- let's say -- "time" for all that -- let's say -- "paperwork".  Now, what the County assessor's office doesn't know, isn't going to hurt you.  Sure, you may have a botched wiring job from an uncertified electrician or your new toilet may now be leaking on your media room, but the point is that you'll be screwing over the City, County, and School District for literally hundreds of dollars. 

(6) Become a multinational corporation.  Since the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, becoming a multinational conglomerate has become easier and easier.  A clever homeowner will be able to use his new found status and capital to twist some arms down on Grant Street and procure political favors, tax incentives, and other favorable conditions to help you eliminate your tax liability entirely.  Now, as a job creator bringing untold (read: "unsubstantiated") investment to the region, you will be hailed as a captain of industry and a keystone of Pittsburgh's economic success. 

(7) Organize as a tax exempt non-profit.  This is only slightly less evil than point #6, unless your organization's stated goal is to kick puppies or provide health care. 

(8) Become a municipality.  Similar to #6 & #7, when you consider all the cities, boroughs, towns, Authorities, School Districts, and other government related organizations, there are currently something like 84 billion "municipal entities" in Allegheny County alone, each with swaths of tax exempt properties on the rolls.  People aren't going to notice if there are a couple more.  You just need a friend or two at the State Legislature (I'd recommend an Orie) to write some enabling legislation for you and you're all set to form your own little town.  This exact strategy worked very well for Pennsbury Village.   

(9) Convert to "virtual" properties.  I'm not all that familiar with Facespace, Mybook, Friendster or any of those social media, interactive thingamadoodles, but I understand that there are places you can go where you can "farm" "land" and "raise" "crops" and do a bunch of "things" that you would do with ordinary real property.  This virtual world is unreachable by the Allegheny County Real Estate Department and Department of Property Assessment, so, if you have the opportunity, sell everything, convert yourself into tiny pixels and live on a virtual farm... until the man from the virtual bank forecloses on you and you have to move out to California with the iJoads. 

(10) Buy a houseboat/RV.  The tax man can't tax what they can't chase down. 

So, there's some suggestions.  I'm sure the less ambitious among you will just hitch up your pants and pay the extra tax, but then you're probably the stupid ones. 

1 comment:

spork_incident said...

The tax man can't tax what they can't chase down.

At least until John Weinstein gets Predator drones. Which should be by 2015.