You Could Save Thousands on Your Real Estate Tax Bill this Year!
Thursday, January 02, 2014
Posted by: Gregg Robertson
HARRISBURG - Two bills proposed by PLNA to prevent real estate taxes on high tunnels were signed into law by the Governor on December 18 and 23, 2013.
High tunnels are the plastic covered structures used widely in the landscape and nursery industry to extend the growing season and over-winter plants. Several counties in Pennsylvania had begun to levy real estate taxes on high tunnels.
High Tunnels Defined
The bills, now Acts 114 and 130, define a high tunnel as a structure that:
(1) is used for the production, processing, keeping, storing, sale or shelter of an agricultural commodity as defined in section 2 of the act of December 19, 1974 (P.L. 973, No.319), known as the Pennsylvania Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act of 1974, or for the storage of agricultural equipment or supplies.
(2) is constructed consistent with all of the following:
(i) has a metal, wood or plastic frame.
(ii) has when covered, has a plastic, woven textile or other flexible covering.
(iii) has a floor made of soil, crushed stone, matting, pavers or a floating concrete slab.
The Pennsylvania Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act of 1974 defines an agricultural commodity as, "agricultural, apicultural, aquacultural, horticultural, floricultural, silvicultural, viticultural and dairy products (emphasis added)”. Horticultural and floricultural products cover the landscape and nursery industry.
Frequently Asked Questions about Acts 114 and 130
Why are these structures called "high tunnels?” – When Penn State developed this technology in the late 1990’s, they called the structures high tunnels to distinguish them from lower tunnel structures used to protect single rows of plants. The structures are now referred to by a variety of names in the industry, such as hoop houses, poly houses, green houses and other terms. When talking to your county tax office, it’s important that you refer to your structures only as "high tunnels,” the term used exclusively in the legislation.
Why are there two laws? – Pennsylvania taxing authority law treats Allegheny and Philadelphia Counties differently than all other counties. It was necessary to address these two sections of the county taxing authority separately. Act 114 deals with all counties except Allegheny and Philadelphia, while Act 130 deals with Allegheny and Philadelphia Counties. The definitions of high tunnels in both laws are identical.
How can I take advantage of Acts 114 and 130? - PLNA members should immediately check their real estate assessment documents to make sure that their high tunnels are not being taxed.
Where Can I Find my County Assessment Records? – If you don’t have current assessment records in your office files, you can get copies at your county court house. Many counties also have assessment records available on their web sites.
What should I do if my high tunnels are being taxed? – First, be sure that your structures meet the definition of a high tunnel contained in the law (see above).
Next, if you find that your high tunnels are being included in the assessed valuation of your property, talk to your county assessment office and tell them about Act 114 or Act 130, depending upon in which county your property is located. You can download and print a copy of the legislation by clicking here: Act 114 or Act 130. Politely ask to have the high tunnels removed from your assessed valuation.
Remember to always refer to the structures as high tunnels. Don’t use any other term to describe them to avoid confusion with your structures and the new law.
What should I do if the county continues to include my high tunnels in my property tax assessment? – If your county continues to tax your high tunnels, call or email Gregg Robertson at PLNA: grobertson@PLNA.com or 717.238.2033. We are monitoring the implementation of these new laws and can help you make your case to your county.
If I paid real estate taxes on my high tunnels before the law passed, can I get a refund? – Unfortunately, unless your county voluntarily wants to grant a refund, there is nothing in the law to compel a county to refund taxes paid prior to the law’s effective date.
When do the laws go into effect? - Each law goes into effect sixty days after the Governor signed it. For Act 114 (all counties except Allegheny and Philadelphia) the effective date is February 16, 2014 and for Act 130 (Allegheny and Philadelphia Counties) February 21, 2014.
Please click here to go the PLNA Legislative Action Center to thank your state representative, your state senator and the Governor for their timely action this important legislation! We have prepared a letter for you and you can send it with a couple of clicks. Let them know how much we appreciate their support!