Philly Department of Revenue offers tax relief

The initiative focuses on three programs for homeowners and senior citizens.

The Philadelphia Department of Revenue is deploying street teams of volunteers throughout North Philadelphia as part of a city-wide initiative to help save residents money on their real estate taxes.

Frank Breslin, the department’s revenue commissioner, identified North Philadelphia, specifically the area near Main Campus, as a “vulnerable population” that stands to be a major beneficiary of the program.

“It’s always hard to get people to come into a tax office,” Breslin said. “We really wanted to get out into the community, knock on doors and try to reach the people where they are.”

The street teams are focusing on three major programs sponsored by the city’s Department of Revenue: a Senior Tax Freeze, the Homestead Exemption and the Owner-Occupied Payment Agreement.

The Senior Tax Freeze targets low-income, elderly homeowners. The program locks qualified seniors in at their current real estate tax rate regardless of the fluctuation of taxes and property values.

To qualify for the Homestead Exemption, property owners must use their Philadelphia residence as their “primary residence.” It includes an analysis of individual property assessments and attempts to reduce the taxable portion. The average homeowner saves $550 per year, Breslin said.

The Owner-Occupied Payment Agreement allows those with outstanding property tax balances to enter a path to affordable payments. With income-based monthly payment options, homeowners have the chance to select a more affordable plan.

The three programs included in the initiative stand to benefit homeowners. Community residents and Temple students who rent will not be able to participate.

“We know that we have some of our most vulnerable residents missing out,” Breslin said. “This is an attempt to reach out and try to let people know that there are programs here to help.”

The street teams’ initiative has received the support of numerous members of City Council, including Council President Darrell Clarke.

“Over the past year, City Council worked closely with Revenue to expand the safety net for homeowners who need help with their Real Estate taxes,” Clarke said in a release in August. “Now is the time to connect folks to that assistance. Our collaborative effort on outreach is the first step in making sure no one is left out.”

Breslin said his office hopes to measure the number of applications for assistance and overall program participation to determine if the initiative is effective. The current progress is encouraging, he added.

Applications for the Homestead Exemption and Senior Tax Freeze are due Sept. 13. Registration for OOPAs are ongoing. The street teams will continue door-knocking throughout the month of September.

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