Did Expert Use the Correct Method of Appraisal In a Tax Assessment Case ?

In Penn's Grant Associates v. Northampton County Board of Assessment Appeals, 733 A.2d 23 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1999), a taxpayer brought an action challenging Northampton County's assessment of lots in a planned residential development. At trial, the board introduced the official assessment record. The taxpayer then offered the testimony of its expert appraiser who testified that she did not appraise each individual lot, instead she used the "development approach" to value and placed a value on the raw acreage to be developed. The trial court found that the expert did not use the correct method of appraisal and, therefore, concluded that taxpayer did not offer sufficient evidence to overcome the board's assessment. Penn's Grant, 733 A.2d at 28. The Court affirmed the trial court's conclusion that the taxpayer failed to present evidence to rebut the prima facie validity of the assessment. This principle was also applied in Gitney v. Berks County Board of Assessment, 160 Pa. Commw. 647, 635 A.2d 737 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1993), where the taxpayers challenged their assessment as "not uniform." In such a case, the taxpayer's burden to overcome the prima facie validity of the assessment is met by showing that a lower ratio of assessment to fair market value has been applied to comparable properties.