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APPEAL SAUER. APPEAL CITY PITTSBURGH (07/20/50)

July 20, 1950

APPEAL OF SAUER. APPEAL OF CITY OF PITTSBURGH


COUNSEL

Anne X. Alpern, City Sol., J. F. McKenna, Jr., Ass't. City Sol., Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Carl Brandt, Alan D. Riester, Brandt, Riester & Brandt, all of Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Before Rhodes, P. J., and Hirt, Reno, Dithrich, Ross and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Rhodes

[ 167 Pa. Super. Page 34]

RHODES, President Judge.

Frank C. Sauer, a nonresident of the City of Pittsburgh, is sole proprietor of a business engaged in making loans of money in the city and registered under the Fictitious Names Act of May 24, 1945, P.L. 967, 54 P.S. § 28.1, as 'Peoples Loan Company.' Sauer held notes payable to Peoples Loan Company aggregating $75,819.70 as of January 1, 1948, and $70,815.97 as of January 1, 1949. By Ordinance No. 486, approved December 1, 1947, the

[ 167 Pa. Super. Page 35]

City of Pittsburgh imposed a tax of two mills 'on the value of all personal property of the classes taxed by the County of Allegheny pursuant to the Act of June 17, 1913, P.L. 507, as amended [72 P.S. §§ 2121, 2141, 4821 et seq.] * * * owned, held or possessed by any resident, which as used in this Section shall mean any person, persons, copartnership or unincorporated association or company resident, located or liable to taxation within the City of Pittsburgh, or by a joint stock company or association, limited partnership, bank or corporation whatsoever formed, * * * and liable to taxation within the City, * * *.' (Italics supplied.)

Acting under the alleged authority of this ordinance, the Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review, on behalf of the City of Pittsburgh, made an assessment, listed as 'Peoples Loan Company, Frank C. Sauer, Proprietor,' of personal property taxes -- $151.64 for the year 1948, and $141.63 for the year 1949. The Board refused Sauer's petitioners for appeal and reassessment. Sauer then filed a petition for appeal from the assessment in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County asking that such assessment be stricken off. The City of Pittsburgh filed an answer to Sauer's petition admitting all the material averments thereof. Upon the taxpayer's motion for judgment on the pleadings, the facts being admitted, the court below held that the City's assessment against this taxpayer could not be sustained under the terms of the ordinance, and entered judgment on the pleadings for the taxpayer. The City of Pittsburgh appeals.

The facts being undisputed the question is one of law. Under the terms of the ordinance, is Frank C. Sauer liable to pay the personal property tax so assessed? Statutes imposing taxes are to be strictly construed. Statutory Construction Act of May 28, 1937, P.L. 1019, Art. IV, § 58(3), 46 P.S. § 558. The words used should be clear and unambiguous; their meaning is not

[ 167 Pa. Super. Page 36]

    to be extended by implication; and in cases of doubt the construction should be against the government. Dixon's Case, 138 Pa. Super. 385, 389, 11 A.2d 169; Philadelphia v. Goldfine, 151 Pa. Super. 59, 62, 29 A.2d 233; Speck v. Philips, 160 Pa. Super. 365, 368, 51 A.2d 399; In re Thaw's Estate, 163 Pa. Super. 484, 488, 63 A.2d 417; Murray v. City of Philadelphia, 364 Pa. 157, 163, 164, 71 A.2d 280.

The action of the court below was in conformity with these principles. It is clear that the City failed to show authority for the imposition of the personal property tax in this case. As a nonresident of the City of Pittsburgh, appellee is not liable for the tax which is expressly applicable to property owned by residents; and liability for the tax is not imposed on the business itself as a legal entity distinct from the original owner. Although having no direct bearing on the present question, under the principle of mobilia sequuntur personam, the situs of intangible personal property for tax purposes is the domicile of the owner. Com. v. Curtis Publishing Co., 237 Pa. 333, 85 A. 360; Com. v. Semet-Solvay Co., 262 Pa. ...


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