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Frequently Asked Questions

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How are assessments prepared?
Pennsylvania has a constitutional requirement for uniformity of taxation. Counties are the governmental unit principally responsible for assessments. They typically meet the uniformity requirement by adopting a "base year" market value. A countywide reassessment is conducted, and the values are determined according to the market as of the date of the reassessment. This date becomes the "base year." The county then applies a percentage to that market value to calculate the assessment. Dauphin County's base year is 2001. Our ratio of assessment is 100 percent. Thus, our assessments presently represent 100 percent of a property's 2001 market value.

How often are assessments updated?
Assessments can be generally updated through a countywide reassessment. In Pennsylvania, many years typically elapse between reassessments. Dauphin County completed a countywide reassessment in 2001 for real estate tax levy purposes.

What information is available in the Tax Assessment Office?
Assessment records are open for public inspection. Anyone may view the records for any property in the county by simply requesting it while visiting our office.

Each property within the county is identified by a Property Identification (ID) number. It remains the same regardless of who owns the property. It identifies the property's location on the tax map and serves as an account number for payment of real estate taxes. You can find your Property ID number on your real estate tax bill; it also appears on notices of revision of assessment.

Our computer file contains information about each property, such as the current owner and their mailing address, property address, and assessed values, as well as certain deed information. Records may be searched by name(s) of the current owner(s), address of the property, Property ID, or deed-recording reference number.

Every property is also physically described on the electronic property record card in the office. This record contains the size of the lot, dimension and a sketch of the building(s) with square footage, number of rooms, and baths, as well as other features.

How can I access assessment information?
Anyone can receive information about a property/assessment at no charge by visiting the Assessment Office. Owners can also receive their property's information at no charge by telephone.

Property Information is also available via the web at

How are real estate taxes calculated?
When the assessments are set by the Office of Tax Assessment each year, they are delivered to the Dauphin County Commissioners and to each of the 40 municipalities and 12 school districts. Each then adopts a tax rate for the upcoming year known as millage rate. One mill represents one dollar of tax per thousand dollars of assessed value. One mill is expressed as .001 arithmetically. The millage is multiplied by the assessment of a property in order to calculate that property's taxes. For example, the county millage is 4.835 mills for general fund and .233 mill for library. An assessment of $50,000 would indicate a Total County and Library Real Estate Tax of $253.40. This tax was calculated as follows: $50,000 X .005068 (total millage) = $253.40.

Click here for current millage rates in effect for your area.

How do I know if the assessment on my property is accurate?
Every county in Pennsylvania has its assessments analyzed annually by the State Tax Equalization Board (STEB). STEB studies the selling prices of properties within each county and their assessed value as of the time that they sold. From this data, they develop a statistic known as the "Common Level Ratio of Assessment." This is a percentage that indicates the relationship of assessments in the county to today's market value. A new ratio is released on or about June 15 of every year. For 2002, the ratio is 100%. Therefore, a property with a 2001 market value of $100,000 should have an assessment in the range of $100,000.

The assessment of a particular property may be revised at any time for "cause." Cause is typically a change in a physical attribute of the property, such as a new addition, garage, or other alteration that enhances its market value. Normal maintenance, such as painting or replacing a roof, does not cause reassessment. Changes can also be made when a property is subdivided and/or developed. To maintain uniformity, values that are changed must continue to represent the 2001 market value; therefore, a building constructed in 2002 is assessed at a value as though it existed in 2001.

What can I do if my assessment is too high?
Property owners have the right to appeal their assessment every year. This right may be exercised whether or not the assessment was changed from the previous year. The law provides that appeals be filed in Dauphin County between June 1 and August 1. Hearings are conducted between August 1 and October 31. Changes made as a result of appeals take effect for the next upcoming tax year. A property which is newly assessed or has revisions made to its assessment receives a notice from the Assessment Office. An owner may appeal a change immediately by following instructions on the revision notice.
What can I do if I experience a fire, flood, or other catastrophic loss?
Any owner who experiences a catastrophic loss may have his or her property inspected, which may result in a revision of the assessment and an immediate reduction in taxes. To qualify, the damage must exceed 50 percent of the value of the property, and relief must be requested within six months of the date of the loss or until the end of the county tax year, whichever is longer. Forms are available from the Assessment Office and the local tax collectors/treasurers' offices in order to apply. Once repaired, qualifying property also cannot be reassessed upward due to the repairs until the following tax year.

Is there any tax program for senior citizens?
Income-eligible seniors may be able to receive a refund of a portion of their real estate taxes from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through its Property Tax and Rent Rebate Program, which is funded by the State Lottery. For more information, you may telephone the State Revenue Department at (717) 783-1405.


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