Joe concentrates in state and local taxation, regularly assisting business and individual taxpayers regarding corporate, financial institution, sales and use, income, real estate, transfer, and all other state and local taxes. A former chief counsel of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, he has since represented hundreds of taxpayers — including businesses, individuals, and nonprofit entities — in state and local tax planning, administrative, legislative, and litigation matters.
Joe is the author of "Taxation," a two-volume treatise on Pennsylvania state and local taxation published by West Group as part of Summary of Pennsylvania Jurisprudence 2d, which has been cited in multiple decisions by both the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. He also has written many articles on state and local tax topics. A book review of Taxation in State Tax Notes described the first edition as the leading treatise on Pennsylvania state taxation and Joe as one of the leading state practitioners in the nation.
Joe was nominated by the leadership of the House of Representatives to the 2004 Pennsylvania Business Tax Reform Commission. He is a fellow of the American College of Tax Counsel, is listed in Who's Who in America and is ranked as a Band 1 tax lawyer by Chambers & Partners USA. Clients described Joe as “a true state and local [tax] legend,” “well versed in complex tax planning matters,” and having “litigation prowess,” and peers have referred to him as a leading commentator on property assessment appeals, particularly with respect to uniformity issues.
Joe serves on Villanova University's School of Law Graduate Advisory Board. He also serves as vice president of the board of directors of Camphill Village Kimberton Hills, Inc. He served as a board member of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, vice chair of the Children's Hospital Foundation, president of the board of trustees of St. Peter's School in Philadelphia, president of the Society Hill Civic Association, and a trustee of the Philadelphia General Hospital Research Fund.
Joe earned his undergraduate degree, cum laude, from Harvard University and his law degree, cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where was the managing editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. From 1965-67, he served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army and received a Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service.
August 19, 2021
Best Lawyers selected 210 Cozen O’Connor lawyers from 23 of the firm’s nationwide offices for inclusion in the 2022 edition of The Best Lawyers in America.
May 26, 2021
Chambers USA, the leading annual guide to the top lawyers and law firms in the United States, has ranked 82 Cozen O’Connor lawyers as leaders in their respective fields in the guide’s 2021 edition; of those, 15 lawyers have been recognized nationally.
August 20, 2020
Best Lawyers selected 201 Cozen O’Connor lawyers from 23 of the firm’s nationwide offices for inclusion in the 2021 edition of The Best Lawyers in America© (Copyright 2020 by Woodward/White, Inc., of Aiken, SC).
May 14, 2020
Chambers USA, the leading annual guide to the top lawyers and law firms in the United States, has ranked 63 Cozen O’Connor lawyers as leaders in their respective fields in the guide’s 2020 edition.
August 28, 2019
Best Lawyers selected 138 Cozen O’Connor lawyers from 21 of the firm’s national offices for inclusion in the 2020 edition of The Best Lawyers in America.
April 25, 2019
Chambers USA, the leading annual guide to the top lawyers and law firms in the USA, has ranked 57 Cozen O’Connor lawyers as leaders in their respective fields in the Guide’s 2019 edition.
August 22, 2018
One hundred twenty-six Cozen O’Connor lawyers from 20 of the firm’s national offices have been selected for inclusion in the 2018 edition of The Best Lawyers in America.
August 10, 2018
Joseph Bright, a member of the firm’s Tax Practice, discusses the inaccurate assessment of home values in Philadelphia an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
August 02, 2018
Joseph Bright, a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Tax Practice, authored an article in Bloomberg Daily Tax Report: State on The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’s ruling that the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue can tax electronic cigarettes as tobacco products.
August 23, 2017
Lawyers were selected for inclusion in the 2018 edition based on a rigorous peer-review that has been developed and defined for more than 30 years.
May 26, 2017
Chambers USA recognized 47 Cozen O’Connor lawyers as leaders in their respective fields; 14 attorneys were recognized nationally and 11 were ranked in the top band.
January 13, 2017
Joseph Bright discusses the Lerner case in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a fraudulent assessment intended to coerce the taxpayer into supplying information.
August 15, 2016
Sixty-two Cozen O’Connor lawyers from 13 of the firm’s national offices have been selected for inclusion in the 2017 edition of The Best Lawyers in America.
May 27, 2016
Chambers USA recognized 41 Cozen O’Connor lawyers as leaders in their respective fields; 12 attorneys were recognized nationally and 11 were ranked in the top band.
January 27, 2015
Joseph C. Bright, a member in the firm's tax group, speaks about how Pennsylvania's taxing authorities and bureaus are held to strict rules when it comes to notice of tax sales, and how the Commonwealth Court has cracked down on some authorities in recent cases.
July 08, 2014
Joe Bright, of the Tax Practice Group, was recently quoted on Philly.com in an article titled, "City of Philly Defends Wiping Clean SEPTA's $22M Tax Bill in Letter to Bill Green, Darrell Clarke." In the article, Joe offers his thoughts regarding the history of litigation over similar arguments by stating, "There are a couple of very well known Pennsylvania Supreme Court cases that say that a commercial hotel located at an airport and located on city or state or county ground is not taxable because you need hotels to operate an air transit system."
July 06, 2012
Cozen O’Connor, PLS Introduce PA Tax Recap
June 30, 2011
Cozen O’Connor Member Talks to Philadelphia Inquirer About Pennsylvania's State Tax Equalization Board
June 08, 2010
Joseph Bright Quoted in Legal Intelligencer on Tax Amnesty
January 27, 2021
Joe Bright and Heidi Schwartz provide an analysis of Autozone Development Corp.’s appeal of a property tax assessment that is pending before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
December 04, 2020
Heidi Schwartz and Joe Bright co-authored an article in Bloomberg Tax addressing the reporting challenges and potential tax bills confronting employers whose employees are working from home in jurisdictions outside of the employer’s workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic.
September 17, 2020
Joe Bright and Heidi Schwartz co-authored an article published in Bloomberg Tax analyzing the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’s recent decision in Synthes USA HQ, Inc. v. Pennsylvania.
August 11, 2020
Joseph Bright and Bob Careless co-authored an article, published by Bloomberg Tax, analyzing a recent decision by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania that is favorable to commercial taxpayers facing selective reverse assessment appeals. Bright and Careless note that decision in the case, Colonial School District v. Metroplex West Associates, L.P., undercuts a common argument by localities in relying on the automatic carryforward of residential appeals when defending against claims of uniformity clause violations.
April 30, 2020
Joe Bright advises real estate owners to consider filing an appeal of the assessed values assigned to properties for the tax year 2021.
October 15, 2019
Heidi Schwartz and Joe Bright explain the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in N.C. Dep’t of Revenue v. Kimberley Rice Kaestner 1992 Family Trust, holding that a state cannot tax income from an out-of-state trust based solely on the beneficiaries' residence in the state.
November 29, 2018
Joseph C. Bright and Heidi R. Schwartz discuss Downs Racing, LP v. Commonwealth and the court's decision that royalty fees are intangible legal rights that do not fall within the meaning of corporeal personal property or canned software.
September 18, 2018
Joseph Bright discusses the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court dismissal of a taxpayer’s petition that requested reversal of an order of the Board of Finance and Revenue in Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc. v. Commonwealth
August 01, 2018
Joseph Bright discusses the decision in Williams v. City of Philadelphia holding that whether a city tax is preempted under the Sterling Act will depend on the incidence of the tax — that is, on what or whom the tax is imposed.
May 24, 2018
Joseph Bright, a member of Cozen O'Connor's Tax Practice Group, wrote an article for Bloomberg Law discussing the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court recently ruling that an electric wholesaler is subject to the state's gross receipts tax
February 22, 2018
Joe Bright discusses recent decisions by the Commonwealth Court that will impact Pennsylvania taxpayers.
December 27, 2017
Joseph Bright and Heidi Schwartz, members of Cozen O’Connor’s Tax Practice Group, discuss the Nextel Communications of the Mid-Atlantic, Inc. v. Commonwealth case in Bloomberg BNA.
November 16, 2017
Joe Bright and Bob Careless, members of Cozen O’Connor’s Tax Practice Group, discuss the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’s decision that a freight broker, who was taxed on delivery charges although it did not provide delivery services, does not fall within the freight delivery exception of the Local Tax Enabling Act (LTEA) in Bloomberg BNA.
October 03, 2017
Joseph Bright and Heidi Schwartz, members of Cozen O’Connor’s Tax Practice, discuss the Saturday Family L.P. v. Commonwealth case in Bloomberg BNA, in which the Commonwealth Court en banc held that Pennsylvania Realty Transfer Tax could not be imposed on a ground lease that contained an option for renewal at fair rental value that included an appraisal procedure.
August 15, 2017
Joseph Bright and Heidi Schwartz, members of Cozen O’Connor’s Tax Practice, discuss a case which found that all nuts, bolts, and washers used to install a guardrail system on a road or highway for Pennsylvania were exempt from sales tax in Bloomberg BNA.
August 08, 2017
Joseph Bright, a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Tax Practice, discusses the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s finding that selective appeals of only commercial property violated the state uniformity clause in Valley Forge Towers Apartments N LP v. Upper Merion School District in Bloomberg BNA.
June 13, 2017
Joseph Bright and Robert Careless, of Cozen O'Connor's Tax Practice Group, discuss a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court case where an appellate issue was lost by the failure to file a post-trial motion.
June 06, 2017
Joseph Bright, a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Tax Practice Group, discusses a recent
Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court case that found American Electric Power liable for the gross receipts tax in an article for Bloomberg BNA.
May 18, 2017
Joseph Bright, a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Tax Practice Group, and Heidi Schwartz, an associate in the Tax Practice Group, discuss the Huston Properties case and the rules it applied for "purely public charity" tax exemptions.
May 11, 2017
The court overruled the trial court that the assessment must be stricken, and instead remanded the case to the lower court to apportion the receipts consistent with its opinion.
May 10, 2017
Joseph Bright and Heidi Schwartz discuss the impact of the Nextel case in Bloomberg BNA.
February 01, 2017
Joseph C. Bright discusses three recent rulings by the Commonwealth Court regarding sales and use tax.
December 23, 2016
Joe Bright discusses the Saturday Family case and its impact on determining the length of leases subject to realty transfer taxes in Bloomberg BNA.
June 23, 2016
The court held that the $2 million cap on a net loss carryover deduction for 2006 Corporate Net Income Tax purposes is unconstitutional because it results in two classes of taxpayers: one for taxpayers that can completely eliminate their taxable income; and another that can only limit the deduction to the extent of the cap.
July 23, 2015
The taxpayer filed a complaint in the nature of a request for declaratory judgment to void the tax sale. After a trial, the taxpayer filed a Statement of Matters Complained of on Appeal, but had not previously filed post-trial motions.
July 23, 2015
The court agreed with the trial court that the taxpayer had not established that it donated or rendered gratuitously a substantial portion of its services. The evidence was that the taxpayer received charitable contributions that varied around one percent of its annual expenditures, but the contributions, at least in substantial part, were a return from its parent of fees charged for management services
July 02, 2015
The court held that the regulation was a reasonable interpretation of the statute and under its plain terms, an amended report did not constitute a petition for refund in because the amended report lacked information that must be included with a complete refund claim.
June 16, 2015
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that a trial court correctly held that a charitable exemption in Allegheny County begins only on the next assessment day, not when the property was acquired. Global Links v. Keystone Oaks School District, No. 1511 C.D. 2014 (Pa. Commw. May 8, 2015).
June 16, 2015
A panel of The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that attorney’s fees are collectable in a tax sale, notwithstanding that Act 2003-20, which authorized the collection of reasonable attorney’s fees, was retroactive to 1996.
June 16, 2015
A divided panel of The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that a reassessment of property upon the expiration of a KOZ abatement was an unlawful spot assessment. Duke Energy Fayette II, LLC v. Fayette County Board of Assessment Appeals, No. 1406 C.D. 2014 (Pa. Commw. Apr. 14, 2015).
May 29, 2015
In Comptroller of the Treasury of Maryland v. Wynne, the Court concluded that the system did not grant a resident credit for Maryland county income tax paid on income earned and taxed in another state.
April 20, 2015
A divided Commonwealth Court held that a township’s business privilege tax on gross receipts enacted under the Local Tax Enabling Act could not be applied to lease payments in Fish v. Township of Lower Merion.
April 16, 2015
The substantial volume of tax sale decisions from appellate courts continues. The high volume of decisions suggests that it may be time for the General Assembly to review the tax sales statutes.
April 14, 2015
A tax appeal from an interim assessment was properly preserved, notwithstanding that the taxpayer did not appeal a subsequent assessment that reflected a tax abatement under LERTA.
March 24, 2015
The Philadelphia Office of Property Assessment (OPA) recently mailed notices to each owner of property listed as tax exempt on the OPA’s records indicating that the owner must file a form to certify that the property continues to be entitled to exemption.
March 04, 2015
A panel of the Commonwealth Court affirmed a decision that an assessment board correctly increased the use value of properties enrolled under the Clean and Green program, notwithstanding that the increased use values exceeded the certified market values. Herzog v. McKean County Board of Assessment, No. 413 C.D. 2014 (Pa. Commw. Jan. 27, 2015). The court rejected the argument that the assessor did not have the power to increase the use value of the properties after they were enrolled in the program.
February 23, 2015
The Philadelphia Office of Property Assessment (OPA) has begun mailing notices to each owner of property listed as tax exempt on the OPA’s records indicating that the owner must file a form to certify that the property continues to be entitled to exemption. The notice and form are confusing as they list different due dates and effective dates for the certification. The OPA has confirmed that the due date for filing the form is March 31, 2015 and that the certification of exemption is for tax year 2016.
February 19, 2015
Continuing a line of recent appellate decisions, a panel of the Commonwealth Court set aside a tax sale because the tax claim bureau failed to note in the file additional efforts that it had made to notify the owner. In re: 2013 Perry County Tax Claim Bureau Sale, Appeal of Tufarolo.
February 10, 2015
A panel of the Commonwealth Court held that a tax sale of owner-occupied property was void because of the failure of the sheriff to include a copy of the notice of the tax sale with affidavits filed in the proceeding. Montgomery County Tax Claim Bureau v. Queenan, No. 209 C.D. 2014 (Pa. Commw. Jan. 12, 2015). The owner had actual notice of the tax sale in advance of the sale. Notwithstanding, the Court held that the failure of the Sheriff to include a copy of the notice did not meet the mandatory requirement of the statute in 72 P.S. §601(a)(3). The tax sale of owner-occupied property requires stricter requirements than requirements of notice to property owners generally under 72 P.S. §5860.602.
January 26, 2015
A panel of the Commonwealth Court held that taxpayers could not be reassessed when they subdivided a parcel into two parcels but retained title. Raup v. Dauphin County Board of Assessment Appeals, No. 237 C.D. 2014 (Pa. Commw. Jan. 14, 2015). The taxpayers owned a property that they subdivided into two lots. One of the parcels had been improved with half of a duplex property long before the subdivision. The court held that the subdivision could not be the occasion for a reassessment when the improvements were not made contemporaneously, citing 53 Pa. C. S. § 8817(a). Any improvement to the property could justify a reassessment at the time the improvements are made but not at an arbitrary time in the future. A subdivision does not constitute an improvement; an improvement requires an addition to the property. The court further held that the subdivision by a deed for $1.00 did not constitute a sale taking the conveyance out of the protection of the subdivision.
January 26, 2015
A panel of the Commonwealth Court held that a taxpayer failed to prove that he was a nonresident of Pennsylvania in 2005. Lust v. Commonwealth, No. 645 F.R. 2011 (Pa Commw. Jan. 9, 2015) (unreported). The taxpayer filed Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey tax returns reflecting part year residency in Pennsylvania in 2005. Several years later, the taxpayer filed an amended Pennsylvania return claiming nonresidency for the entire year. The court stated that, when asked about the conflicting documentary evidence on cross examination, the taxpayer was evasive, repeatedly declined to identify documents that he had filed, would not confirm information contained therein, testified that he could not remember critical facts, and provided only the most basic information. The court found the taxpayer’s testimony not credible and held that he had failed to prove nonresidency in Pennsylvania.
December 18, 2014
A divided panel of the Commonwealth Court concluded that real estate used by a railroad as a transloading facility was not exempt from local real estate tax. CSX Transportation, Inc., v. Delaware County Board of Assessment Appeals, No. 1276 C.D. 2014 (Pa. Commw. Nov. 19, 2014). The appeal may not be correctly decided.
December 15, 2014
A panel of a Commonwealth Court concluded that a mixed-use housing project owned by municipality was exempt from real estate tax. Reading Housing Authority v. Board of Assessment Appeals of Berks County, No. 1937 C.D. 2013 (Pa. Commw. Nov. 12, 2014). The Reading Housing Authority owned and operated a mixed-use housing project known as a 20-80 project. Twenty percent of the units were set aside for low income persons. The balance were rented at commercial rates.
November 04, 2014
A divided panel of the Commonwealth Court held that a city was not prohibited from imposing its Business Privilege Tax on the gross receipts of a freight broker. S & H Transport, Inc. v. City of York, No. 165 C. D. 2014 (Pa. Commw. Oct. 15, 2014). The taxpayer contracted with its customer to provide common carrier transportation services. The taxpayer would then contract with a common carrier to transport the items, negotiating the lowest feasible price. The difference between what the taxpayer charged its customer and what the common carrier charged the taxpayer constituted the taxpayer's profit.
September 26, 2014
A panel of the Commonwealth Court held that portions of a 45-acre tract were entitled to exemption as places of regularly stated religious worship. Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary of Earth Religion v. Medford County Board of Assessment and Revision of Taxes, No. 1963
C.D. 2013 (Pa. Commw. Sept. 16, 2014). The tract in question was used to conduct open air religious practices of a religious faith. The property was secluded, which served to protect the privacy of the participants. The trial court held that certain portions of the property were exempt but others were not.
September 02, 2014
A panel of the Commonwealth Court held that the trial court properly denied a mortgage holder’s petition to set aside the judicial tax sale of a property in Lackawanna County due to alleged improper service of notice and other errors committed under the Real Estate Tax Sale Law (RETSL). HSBC Bank USA, N.A. v. Lackawanna County Tax Claim Bureau, No. 2027 C.D. 2013 (Pa. Commw. Aug. 1, 2014).
September 02, 2014
The statute requires notice to be given to each owner of the property. The notice requirements of the statute are strictly construed. Rinier v. Tax Claim Bureau of Delaware County, 606 A.2d 635 (Pa Commw. 1992). There were four owners of the property. Notice was sent addressed only to one owner followed by et al. The court held that such notice was inadequate under the statute. Therefore the tax sale was invalidated.
June 30, 2014
A panel of the Commonwealth Court held that the Westmoreland Tax Claim Bureau had the discretion under the Real Estate Tax Sale Law (RETSL) to allow an owner of a tax delinquent property (Rowe) to redeem the property through the payment of all tax and costs after the property failed to sell at a tax sale and a judicial sale and had been placed in the bureau’s repository of unsold property. Consequently, the court dismissed a complaint for mandamus and declaratory judgment filed by an individual (Sanders) seeking to force the bureau to accept his bid for the property.
June 30, 2014
A panel of a Commonwealth Court held that a mortgagee is not an aggrieved party for purposes of standing to take an appeal of the assessment of real property. Mountain Manor Development Company LP v. Monroe County Board of Assessment Appeals, No. 1187 C.D. 2013 (Pa. Comm. May 22, 2014) (unreported).
June 30, 2014
A panel of the Commonwealth Court held that a pro se taxpayer waived all issues on appeal because he failed to comply with the lower court’s order directing him to file a statement of matters complained of on appeal. City of Philadelphia v. Tax Review Board, Appeal of Samuel Cook, No. 1070 C.D. 2013 (Pa. Commw. May 21, 2014) (unreported). Issues not stated in a statement are waived. Commonwealth v. Castillo, 888 A.2d 775 (Pa. 2005). Since the taxpayer filed no statement, all issues were waived.
June 30, 2014
A panel of the Commonwealth Court held that an owner of property was entitled to pursue a base year evaluation appeal, notwithstanding that the initial appeal was taken by a school district. Corey v. Washington County Board of Assessment Appeals, No. 370 C.D. 2013 (Pa. Commw. May 13, 2014) (unreported).
June 30, 2014
A divided Commonwealth Court panel vacated an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County dismissing a property owner’s (Pascal) set aside petition to void the judicial sale of her property and remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing.
May 08, 2014
A nearly unanimous Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court and held that certain promotional expenses were deductible in calculating gross terminal revenue for purposes of the 34 percent Pennsylvania tax on slot machines.
April 18, 2014
The Commonwealth Court affirmed on several grounds an assessment under the Liquid Fuels and Fuels Use Tax Act. Luther P. Miller, Inc. v. Commonwealth, No. 550 F.R. 2009 (Pa. Commw. Mar. 20, 2014). The taxpayer raised three issues. The court rejected the argument that sales to bus operators that provided services to a school district were exempt from taxation as sales to political subdivisions, as addressed in 61 Pa. C.S. § 315.3.
March 27, 2014
In a four to three decision, the en banc Commonwealth Court held that a senior citizen’s estate was entitled to a rebate under the Senior Citizens Property Tax and Rent Rebate Assistance Act, 53 P.S. §§ 6926.1301-6926.1313 (the Senior Rebate Act), so long as the decedent met any of the claimant eligibility criteria under Section 1303 even if the decedent did not live throughout the tax year for which the rebate was sought.
March 06, 2014
The New York Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court and held that in order for an individual to have a “permanent place of abode” in New York for purposes of determining whether the individual is a statutory tax resident, there must be some basis to conclude that the property owned by the individual was actually used as the individual’s residence. Matter of Gaied v. New York State Tax Appeals Tribunal, et al., Docket No. 26 (N.Y. Ct. App. Feb. 18, 2014). While the decision is not binding in states other than New York, the analysis is pertinent in the myriad states, including Pennsylvania, that have a statutory definition of a resident for tax purposes that is the same or similar to that of New York.
February 20, 2014
A panel of the Commonwealth Court concluded that a continuing care retirement community qualified as an institution of purely public charity and was therefore exempt from real estate tax, except for a remand regarding application of the exemption to two relatively minor parcels. Albright Care Services v. Union County Board of Assessment, No. 2094 C.D. 2012 (Pa. Commw. Jan. 29, 2014) (unreported). The questions were whether the institution qualified as a purely public charity under case law and under Act 1997-55.
February 12, 2014
A federal district court remanded to state court an action that made various contractual and consumer oriented claims regarding the collection of sales tax. Farneth v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2:3-cv-01062 (W.D.PA. Dec. 30, 2013). The plaintiff purchased two items of shaving gel at a Wal-Mart store taking advantage of a two-for-one promotional sale. The store charged Pennsylvania Sales Tax as though both items were purchased at full price.
February 12, 2014
A panel of the Commonwealth Court modified an order of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas that quashed certain real estate assessment appeals filed on a consolidated basis, but permitted the property owners to file amended appeals beyond the statutory appeal period provided they do so within 60 days of the order and pay the necessary filing fees.
January 09, 2014
A plurality of the full Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the disparity in valuations that results from the application of the statutory averaging formula for valuations and a combination provision are not unconstitutional. Lebanon Valley Farmers Bank v. Commonwealth, No. 78 MAP 2011 (Pa. Dec. 27, 2012) (3 to 2), reversing 27 A.3rd 288 (Pa Commw. 2011) . The decision may be incorrectly decided.
December 04, 2013
A panel of the Commonwealth Court reversed and remanded for further findings several assessments determined by a trial court. In re appeal of Harley-Davidson Motor Company, No. 159 C.D. 2013 (Pa Commw. Oct. 30, 2013). The property was approximately 229 acres formerly used for the manufacture of munitions and certain other industrial activities. The property had significant continuing environmental problems. The Commonwealth Court reversed for several reasons.
December 04, 2013
A divided panel of the Commonwealth Court affirmed a decision below that taxpayers were entitled to credits for overpaid Philadelphia Business Privilege Tax, notwithstanding a three-year limit on the refund of taxes. City of Philadelphia v. City of Philadelphia Tax Review Board ex rel. Keystone Healthplan East, Inc., No. 97 C.D. 2013 (Pa Commw. Nov. 18, 2013).
November 26, 2013
A panel of the Commonwealth Court reversed and remanded assessments on a property regarding the impact of obsolescence on the buildings. In re Appeal of Council Rock School District, Appeal of LMC Properties, Inc., No. 354 C.D. 2013 (Pa Commw. Nov. 8, 2013) (unreported). The property consisted of 52 acres and an office, research and industrial center used for research and manufacturing. The court first rejected an argument that the trial court used a value-in-use methodology. The court held that the appraiser upon which the trial court relied did not take into account specialized equipment in the buildings.
November 05, 2013
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court and held that property owned by the Board of City Trusts acting as trustee under the will of Stephen H. Girard was immune from real estate taxation because the trust is a state agency. City of Philadelphia, Trustee v. Cumberland County Board of Assessment Appeals, No. 902 MAP 2011
(Pa. Oct. 30, 2013). The court was unanimous in the result; two justices filed a concurring opinion.
October 31, 2013
A panel of the Commonwealth Court remanded a decision by the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas for specific findings on certain aspects of a valuation for real estate tax purposes. 36 Township Line Storage, L.P. v. Montgomery County Board of Assessment Appeals, No. 1540 C.D. 2012 (Pa Commw. Oct. 18, 2013) (unreported). The court remanded, on the grounds of the now black-letter rule that a court may adopt some, a portion, or all of an expert’s report that it finds credible, but must explain which parts its relies upon so that a review in court can determine whether the conclusion is reasonably based on the record.
August 30, 2013
A panel of the Commonwealth Court sustained a decision that upheld the assessment of a township’s business privilege tax, interest and penalties. Whitehall Township Treasurer v. Allentown Power Center, L.P. No. 248 C.D. 2012 (Pa. Commw. Aug. 8, 2013). The taxpayer was assessed business privilege tax for 15 years beginning in 1995 on gross receipts from a rental commercial property.
July 18, 2013
The en banc Commonwealth Court held that private telephone line charges and directory assistance services were subject to the Public Utility Gross Receipts Tax (GRT), but non-recurring service charges were exempt. Verizon Pennsylvania, Inc. v. Commonwealth.
July 18, 2013
A panel of the Commonwealth Court held that a taxpayer had standing to challenge a LERTA designation, but the complaint nonetheless was dismissed because it alleged no facts in support of the claim that the property was incorrectly classified as deteriorated.
July 18, 2013
Two tax bills will make substantial changes to Pennsylvania taxes if finally enacted. The bills were part of the budget process. House Bill 465 has passed the House and Senate and requires the governor’s signature. Senate Bill 591 needs Senate concurrence in certain House amendments and the governor’s approval.
July 02, 2013
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed per curiam a decision that the burden of proving a change of domicile is on the person claiming the change. Hvizdak v. Commonwealth, 92 MAP 2012 (Pa. June 17, 2013) (per curiam), aff’g 50 A.3d 788, (Pa. Commw. 2012).
January 05, 2012
Sheetz Test Rejected for Sales and Use Tax - Tax Alert -
December 29, 2011
Pallets by Themselves Not Considered Containers - Tax Alert -
December 28, 2011
Tax Compromises Possible at Board of Appeals - Tax Alert -
December 15, 2011
Philadelphia Amends Business Privilege Tax Bases, Rates & Credits & Provides Relief to New Businesses - Tax Alert! - Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed bills number 110554 and 110548-A, both of which were signed by the mayor on November 14. Bill number 110554 amends the city’s Business Privilege Tax (BPT) to allow for an exclusion to all taxpayers for a flat amount of receipts from the gross receipts portion of the tax, a pro-rata exclusion from the net income portion of the tax to account for the excluded
August 12, 2011
Bank Shares Tax Calculation Modified - Tax Alert! - The Commonwealth Court en banc dismissed exceptions from a panel decision and held that the calculation of Bank Shares Tax must be modified to cure a constitutional defect in the application of the tax to certain post-merger institutions. Lebanon Valley Farmers Bank v. Commonwealth, No. 698 F.R. 2005 (Pa. Commw. Aug. 4, 2011).
August 10, 2011
Declaratory Judgment on Hotel Tax Application May Proceed - Tax Alert! - panel of the Commonwealth Court held that a county could proceed with a declaratory judgment action seeking to establish that online reservation companies are subject to the county’s hotel tax. County of Lawrence v. Hotels.com LP, No. 2541 C.D. 2010 (Pa. Commw., Aug. 3, 2011).
August 02, 2011
STEB Sets 2010 Philadelphia Common Level Ratio at 18.1% - Tax Alert! - The Pennsylvania State Tax Equalization Board (STEB) recently released the 2010 Common Level Ratios (CLR) for counties across Pennsylvania. The 2010 CLR for Philadelphia is 18.1% — not quite half what it has been for the past twenty-five years. The large shift will have an important impact in two areas of Philadelphia taxation.
May 31, 2011
Class Action Stayed - Tax Alert! - The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that a trial court correctly ruled that a purported class action for the refund of Sales and Use Tax must be decided in the first instance by the Department of Revenue. It should have stayed the action until the Department of Revenue acted on the refund claim. Stoloff v. Neiman Marcus Group, Inc., No. 2674 EDA 2009 (Pa. Super. May 23, 2011).
May 12, 2011
Farmstead Valued at Current Market Value - Tax Alert! -
April 21, 2011
Air Pump Sales Not Taxable - Tax Alert! - In a divided panel decision, the Commonwealth Court held that sales from coin operated air vending machines located in gas stations and convenience stores were not taxable for Sales and Use Tax purposes. Air-Serv Group, LLC v. Commonwealth, No. 459 F.R. 2008 (Pa. Cmwth. April 14, 2011). The majority held that the sales were not taxable for several reasons.
April 20, 2011
Reassessment to Comparables Denied - Tax Alert! - A panel of the Commonwealth Court concluded that, although a taxpayer demonstrated that his property was assessed at a much greater value than certain comparable properties in a development, he was entitled to no relief beyond application of the common level ratio. Smith v. Carbon County Board of Assessment Appeals, 10 A.3d 393 (Pa. Commw. 2010).
April 19, 2011
Use Value of Forest Reserve Correctly Determined - Tax Alert! - A panel of the Commonwealth Court concluded that, although a taxpayer demonstrated that his property was assessed at a much greater value than certain comparable properties in a development, he was entitled to no relief beyond application of the common level ratio. Smith v. Carbon County Board of Assessment Appeals, 10 A.3d 393 (Pa. Commw. 2010).
April 15, 2011
Community Center Was Not a Charity - Tax Alert! - An en banc decision of the Commonwealth Court held that a community center that provided free services for all its programs was not a purely public charity entitled to an exemption for real estate tax purposes. Church of the Overcomer v. Delaware County Board of Assessment Appeals, No. 269 C.D. 2010 (Pa. Commw. Mar. 17, 2011). The decision appears to be incorrectly decided. Click here for the entire story.
January 18, 2011
Expedia Not Required to Collect Philadelphia Hotel Tax - Tax Alert! - The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas affirmed a decision by the City’s Tax Review Board that an Internet hotel reservation company was not liable to collect Philadelphia’s Hotel Tax. City of Philadelphia v. City of Philadelphia Tax Review Board, Mar. Term 2010 No. 00764 (Phila. C.P. Jan. 14, 2011)
July 27, 2010
License for Canned Software is Taxable - Tax Law Alert! - The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that a license to use canned software is a license to use tangible personal property and is therefore taxable for Sales and Use Tax purposes. Dechert LLP v. Commonwealth, No. 12 MAP 2008 (Pa., July 20, 2010). Oral argument on the appeal was held over 1 ½ years ago.
May 03, 2010
Exemption Denied For Lack Of Free Services - Tax Law Alert! - A panel of the Commonwealth Court reversed a trial court
and held that a nonprofit corporation that provided student
housing was not entitled to a charitable exemption
because it did not give free or discounted services to the students.
CHF-Kutztown, LLC v. Berks County Board of Assessment Appeals, No.
1663 C.D. 2009 (Pa. Cmwlth. Apr. 13, 2010) (unreported).
April 26, 2010
Irrevocable Trust Is an Ordinary Trust - Tax Law Alert! - Adivided panel of the Commonwealth Court rejected
the position of the Department of Revenue and held
that a transfer to an irrevocable trust qualified as a transfer to a living trust excluded from realty transfer tax. Miller v. Commonwealth, No. 757 F.R. 2007 (Pa. Commw. Apr. 8, 2010). A living trust is a qualifying trust intended as a will
substitute. 72 P.S. §8101-C. A transfer to a qualifying living trust is excluded from tax. 72 P.S. §8102-C.3(8.1).
February 01, 2010
Flat Tax on Businesses Upheld - Tax Alert! - A panel of the Commonwealth Court concluded that a flat tax of $2,600 on all businesses in a township with gross receipts of over $1 million was lawful. Shelly Funeral Home, Inc. v. Warrington Township, No. 769 C.D. 2009 (Pa. Cmwlth. Dec. 31, 2009) (unreported). The appeal is probably correctly decided, but it highlights several serious policy mistakes by the General Assembly.
January 27, 2010
YMCA Empty Charity - Tax Alert! - In the third appellate decision in ten years of litigation, a commercial fitness center failed in a claim that the operation of a fitness center by a YMCA violated the prohibition against subsidizing a commercial business unrelated to the
YMCA’s charitable purpose. Selfspot, Inc. v. Butler County Family YMCA, No. 1308 D.C. 2008 (Pa. Cmwlth. Jan. 5, 2010) (en banc). The appellate court agreed with the conclusion of the trial court after five days of hearings that the YMCA’s fitness center
January 21, 2010
PEO Did Not Sell Help Supply Services - Tax Alert! - Apanel of the Commonwealth Court concluded that
a flat tax of $2,600 on all businesses in a township
with gross receipts of over $1 million was lawful.
Shelly Funeral Home, Inc. v. Warrington Township, No. 769 C.D.
2009 (Pa. Cmwlth. Dec. 31, 2009) (unreported). The appeal is
probably correctly decided, but it highlights several serious
policy mistakes by the General Assembly.
January 20, 2010
Transfer of Residence to Trust is Taxable - Tax Alert! - A divided panel of the Commonwealth Court held that the transfer of a vacation residential property by husband and wife to themselves as trustees to benefit themselves and their children was taxable because the trust was a business trust, not an ordinary trust for realty transfer tax purposes. Kosco v. Commonwealth, No. 766 F.R. 2007 (Pa. Cmwlth. Dec. 16, 2009). The practical effect of the decision probably will be that virtually no transfer of real estate to a trust can ever qualify
January 18, 2010
MOBILE HOMES ARE REAL ESTATE - Tax Alert! - In two cases, a panel of the Commonwealth Court held
that mobile homes were taxable as real estate for real estate tax purposes. Lazor v. Board of Assessment Appeals, No. 2372 D.C. 2008 (Pa. Cmwlth., Dec. 15, 2009); Gelormino v.
Board of Assessment Appeals, No. 2371 C.D. 2008 (Pa. Cmwlth., Dec. 15, 2009). The pertinent assessment statute imposed real
estate taxes on mobile homes permanently attached to the land or connected to utility facilities.
January 15, 2010
Religious Summer Camp is Not a Charity - Tax Alert! - A panel of the Commonwealth Court held that a Jewish religious camp located in Pike County was not entitled to exemption as a purely public charity because it did not meet one of the case law requirements that an institution relieve the government of some of its burden. Mesivtah Eitz Chaim of Bobov, Inc. v. Pike County Board of Assessment Appeals, No. 2343 C.D. 2008 (Pa. Cmwlth. Dec. 29, 2009) (unreported).
January 07, 2010
Local Head Tax Prohibited by Federal Act - Tax Alert! - The federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that the U.S. Department of Transportation correctly determined that a head tax imposed by Tinicum Township was prohibited by the Anti-Head Tax Act, 48 U.S.C. §40116. Township of Tinicum v. United States, No. 08-1830 (3rd Cir. Sept. 14, 2009).
December 16, 2009
Self-Storage Facilities Correctly Valued - Tax Alert! - In an unreported decision, a panel of the Commonwealth Court concluded that certain self-storage facilities were correctly valued for real estate tax purposes based on the actual financial results from the property, since the trial court had found that the properties were optimally managed and a buyer could not reasonably expect to improve the financial performance. Guardian Self Storage WD v. Board of Property Assessment Appeals & Review, No. 119 C.D. 2009 (Pa. Cmwth., Nov. 16, 2009).
December 15, 2009
Investment Loss Disallowed - Tax Alert! - A panel of the Commonwealth Court disallowed a claimed business loss of over $21 million on the grounds that a settlement with the Internal Revenue Service regarding the same loss amounted to an admission that the investment was not made with the intention of making a profit. Hvizdak v. Commonwealth, No. 739 F.R. 2006 (Pa. Cmwlth., Nov. 19, 2009).
November 17, 2009
Electricity Delivery and Stranded Cost Charges are Taxable - Tax Alert! - The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that after deregulation of the electricity industry, charges by a distribution company for the transmission of electricity and for stranded costs are taxable for Sales and Use Tax purposes. Spectrum Arena Limited Partnership v. Commonwealth, No. 42 MAP 2008 (Pa. Nov. 5, 2009). This was a hard case, and it made bad law.
June 26, 2009
Denial of Tax Credit is Appealable - Tax Alert! -A panel of the Commonwealth Court held that the denial by the Department of Community and Economic Development of a tax credit claimed under the Neighborhood Assistance Act is appealable. Dijas v. Department of Community and Economic Development, No.1388 C.D. 2008 (Pa. Commw. Apr. 28, 2009). The Act authorizes the Department to grant a tax credit to a taxpayer that contributes to certain approved improvements or programs in needy communities.
June 11, 2009
Recent Pennsylvania Tax Decisions - Tax Alert! -