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EQUITABLE GAS COMPANY v. PITTSBURGH SCHOOL DISTRICT (06/26/61)

June 26, 1961

EQUITABLE GAS COMPANY
v.
PITTSBURGH SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANT.



Appeals, Nos. 22, 23, 24 and 25, March T., 1961, from orders of County Court of Allegheny County, Nos. A918, A928, A1164, and A1165 of 1959, in cases of Equitable Gas Company v. School District of Pittsburgh, and The Peoples Natural Gas Company v. Same. Orders affirmed.

COUNSEL

Edmund W. Ridall, Jr., Assistant School Solicitor, with him Niles Anderson, School Solicitor, for appellant.

William H. Eckert, with him James B. Sayers, John T. Brown, Donald I.Moritz, Robert M. Jacob, Edward J. Greene, and Eckert, Seamans & Cherin, for appellees.

Before Bell, Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Bok and Eagen, JJ.

Author: Bell

[ 404 Pa. Page 322]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BELL.

Each of the appellees is a corporation organized under the Natural Gas Act of 1885, P.L. 29, 15 PS ยง 1981 et seq., and is engaged in the production, transportation and distribution of natural gas to the public. Each appellee maintains its principal office and place of business within the City of Pittsburgh. Each appellee is subject to regulation by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. A deficiency assessment for Mercantile License taxes for the years 1954 through 1958 or 1959 was made against each appellee by the Treasurer of the School District. The lower Court voided these assessments and held that the Mercantile License Tax was not applicable to appellees while selling or dealing in natural gas.*fn*

[ 404 Pa. Page 323]

While several subsidiary questions have been raised which will be hereinafter discussed, the basic question involved is whether natural gas companies are subject to payment of the Mercantile License Tax on gross receipts from sale of natural gas. In other words, is natural gas included in "vendors, or dealers in goods, wares, and merchandise" within the meaning of the Mercantile License Tax Act.

The title of the Act is "An act to provide revenue for school districts... by imposing a temporary mercantile license tax on persons engaging in certain*fn** occupations and businesses...." The Act pertinently provides:

"Section 1: (2) 'Wholesale dealer' or 'Wholesale vendor' shall mean any person who sells to dealers in, or vendors of, goods, wares and merchandise and to no other persons.

"(3) 'Retail dealer' or 'Retail vendor' shall mean any person who is a dealer in, or vendor of, goods, wares and merchandise who is not a wholesale dealer or vendor.

"Section 4. Imposition and Rate of Tax. - Every person engaging in any of the following occupations or businesses in any school district of the first class shall pay an annual mercantile license tax at the rate set forth: (1) Wholesale vendors or dealers in goods, wares and merchandise and brokers, at the rate of.... (2) Retail vendors, or dealers in goods, wares and merchandise; all persons engaged in conducting restaurants or other ...


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