Tax Assessment Without Evidence of Fair Market Value of Comparable Properties

In Gitney v. Berks County Board of Assessment, 160 Pa. Commw. 647, 635 A.2d 737 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1993), the taxpayers purchased property in 1986 for $ 44,000. The assessed value was $ 2,400. The property was reassessed in 1987 at $ 4,000, and the taxpayers challenged the reassessment. At the trial de novo, the Berks County Tax Assessment Board moved into evidence, without objection, the tax assessment record. To rebut this evidence, the taxpayers presented a real estate valuation expert who testified as to assessments of comparable properties. The expert testified that he looked at homes in the proximity of the taxpayers' home and determined that the taxpayers' property was "way over assessed" and that the market value of comparable properties "would be far in excess" of the taxpayers' property. Gitney, 635 A.2d at 741. The Court of Common Pleas of Berks County (common pleas court) rejected the expert's testimony because it was "insufficient to sustain the burden of proof required under the law." Gitney, 635 A.2d at 740. On appeal, this Court affirmed. Without evidence to show that the fair market value of comparable properties was different from that found by the board, the common pleas court was left without information upon which to base a finding as to the current market value or determine the issue of uniformity. "Gitney should have presented evidence on fair market value instead of presenting general testimony qualifying certain properties as inferior or superior to his property." Gitney, 635 A.2d at 742. See also Mathies Coal Co. Appeal, 435 Pa. 129, 255 A.2d 906 (1969).