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FAQs
Berks County Mapping Office
 
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
 

What are tax maps?

 

Tax maps are simply maps that show the boundary lines between individually owned properties.  They may also be called parcel maps, or cadastral maps.

 

Why do we have tax maps?

 

Tax maps are intended to be a visual inventory of all real property within the jurisdiction, for the sole purpose of administering property tax assessment.  In Berks County, they are also used to assign a Parcel Identification Number (PIN), and calculate an assessed acreage for each tract.

 

What else are they used for?

 

Tax maps are of utility to many different users.  They are a valuable tool for surveyors, title searchers, realtors, appraisers, lawyers, developers, various other business people, other government jurisdictions, taxpayers, and the just plain curious.  If you want to know who owns a property, tax maps are often one of the first places to look.

 

How do I obtain a tax map?

 

We recommend that you visit our office on the third floor of the Berks County Services Center, at 633 Court Street, Reading, PA, 19601.  If you cannot visit our office, we will mail you a map upon receipt of payment.  Be aware that if the property you are interested in spans two or more map sheets, you will need more than one copy to show the entire property.

 

How much do tax maps cost?

 

All photocopies are $2.00 per 11” x 17” sheet.  Blue prints are $10.00 per 30” x 42” sheet.  Photocopies may be reduced format maps (entire map on an 11” x 17” sheet), or an 11” x 17” portion of the standard full scale maps.  Digital maps on CD-ROM of the entire county can be purchased for $100.00 (new price effective January, 2010).

 

Why must I sign a license agreement to obtain digital parcel GIS data files?

 

Please address all questions regarding the license agreement to:

   

            Brad Shirey (bshirey@countyofberks.com)

            Berks County Information Systems Department

            Berks County Services Center 12th floor

            633 Court Street

            Reading   PA   19601

            610-478-6283 extension 6116

 

How many tax maps are there?

 

1409 standard tax maps to cover all of Berks County.

 

How are tax maps made?

 

Property deeds contain a paragraph called the legal description, which is text that describes the boundary of the property.  The legal description usually contains courses known as metes and bounds, or bearings and distances, such as North 45 degrees 50 minutes 32 seconds West, 591.44 feet. The bearings and distances are plotted out to produce an outline of the property.  The outlines of all of the properties are put together like a jigsaw puzzle, to create the tax map.  The work of making the maps is done on computers, and the finished maps are then plotted onto paper.

 

How often are the maps updated?

 

The mapping staff is making changes to the map computer files on a daily basis.  Paper maps are printed once a year.  I takes about two months to create the printer files, plot them out, and make the blueprints.  The reduced format maps (11” x 17”) are started August 1, and are usually available by early September.   Standard size maps (30” x 42”) are started November 1, and are usually available by the end of the year.

 

Why do the tax maps need to be updated?

 

Berks County is a growing county.  Every year there are hundreds of new lots due to subdivisions.  When a farm field becomes a residential development, the tax maps must reflect the new lot lines.  Also, tax maps change when corrections are necessary.

 

Why aren’t the owners’ names on the maps?

 

The frequency and volume of property ownership changes precludes showing that information on hard copy maps.

 

Why are there so many correction changes?  Will the maps ever be ‘right’?

 

The tax maps are like a jigsaw puzzle in which the pieces do not fit together with one another.  The tax maps are a graphic representation of the information in deeds, survey plans, and other primary sources of information.  In many cases, the data sources have deficiencies or conflicts that caused the map to be incorrect.  If new information surfaces, or if there is a new survey or subdivision, adjoining properties may be adjusted on the map.   And, it’s possible that the previous mapper just made a mistake that must be fixed. So no, the map will never be ‘right’ or ‘finished’.

 

 

Why is the map acreage used to calculate assessments rather than the deed acreage?

 

An acreage is necessary to calculate land value.  Many deeds do not state the area.  Some other deeds have incorrect area, due to typographical error or an error in calculation.  And, many deeds include area that falls within the public street right of way, which we do not count for tax assessment.   Indeed, it is more likely that the deed acreage and map acreage will be different, rather than the same.

 

Hey!  The tax map says I have less acres than my deed says.  You stole my land!

 

No we didn’t.  Your deed is the legal evidence of what you own, not the tax map.  The map acreage represents only the amount of land that you are being assessed for.  The difference may actually be to your financial advantage, if the amount of difference is great enough to lower your assessment calculation.  However, if the difference is large, we would like to be informed, to check whether a map correction is necessary.  If the acreage difference is significant, and we decline to change the tax map, you may wish to get a property survey, which is the only true way to determine exactly how much land you own.

 

Hey!  The tax map says I have more acres than my deed says.  You are making my taxes higher!

 

By all means, let us know.  If a map correction is in order, we will make it.  Bear in mind, that the deed may be in error, rather than the map.  In addition, if the difference is very small, it will not lower your assessment.  If the difference is significant, and we can not justify a map correction, a property survey will determine exactly how much land you own. 

 

I disagree with my neighbor about the location of our common property line.  Can I use the tax map to prove that I’m right?

 

No!  The tax maps are not legal evidence of  size, shape, location, ownership, or boundary of real property, public rights of way, or municipal boundary lines.  Only a surveyor can determine your boundary.  If, after your surveyor determines the boundary, your neighbor still refuses to acknowledge it, you then need the service of a lawyer.  If both parties have conflicting surveys and their respective surveyors and lawyers will not agree, then ultimately the boundary will be determined in civil court.