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Real Estate Tax Exemption Available for Needy Disabled Vets.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | November 11, 2008

Posted by Cliff Tuttle

Section 8902(a) of the Pennsylvania Military Affairs Act provides for an exemption from real estate tax liability for Veterans of the United States armed forces who have been honorably disharged as a result of permanent disability suffered in the line of service, provided that the State Veterans’ Commission determines that there is a need for the exemption. Such an exemption is not contrary to the Pennsylvania Constitution, as Article VIII, section 2(c) permits such an exemption for disabled war veterans and their surviving spouses.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court recently ruled on a case where a County Board of Assessment had adopted a policy of exempting the disabled veteran’s residence and only one acre of land.

Thomas Vanderhoef, a totally disabled Vietnam War Veteran, owned 2.15 acres and a house, his principal residence. In 2007, he received a tax bil which exempted only the house and one acre, leaving the additional 1.15 acre subject to taxation.

When asked to explain the failure to exempt the additional 1.15 acre, Chief Tax Assessor Ellen O’Malley testified that “one acre works best” in the present County tax system. The Commonwealth Court, in an opinion written by Judge Bernard L. McGinley, stated:

“However, it is not entirely clear from the record if the Commission made the requisite determination of ‘need’. If the Commission in fact, determined that Vanderhoef was in need of an exemption from the payment of real estate taxes then it was incumbent on the Assessment Board to grant the exemption of the payment of real estate taxes, without exception. . . .The exemption of one acre was completely arbitrary and had no correlation to the individualized need of Vanderhoef which was a decision of the Commission. Consequently, the trial court’s acceptance of the Assessment Board’s exemption of only one acre was cleary an error of law which must be reversed.”

If you know a disabled veteran who is in need and who is currently paying real estate taxes on a home owned either singly or with a spouse, make him or her aware of the opportunity. To learn more about this and other Veteran’s rights and to contact the State Veterans’ Commission, click here.


CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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