Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Mifflin County, May T., 1966, No. 1, in case of James M. Treaster, L. Walter Bassler, Daniel W. Zeigler et al. v. Township of Union, Kenneth B. Bigelow, Lawrence A. Stroup, Jr. et al.
Larry F. Knepp, with him Robert Stuckenrath, and Stuckenrath and Knepp, for appellants.
R. Lee Ziegler, with him John B. Schaner, for appellees.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen. Mr. Justice Roberts concurs in the result. Mr. Justice Jones took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
This is another appeal generated by the never-ending search of our local municipalities to seek additional
sources of tax revenue to meet their budgetary needs. In this search they have found a willing ally in the General Assembly which, over two decades ago, enacted the Act of June 25, 1947, P. L. 1145, the so-called "Act 481" or "Tax Anything Act." This Act conferred broad taxing powers on the local subdivisions, powers limited generally only by the existence of state tax impositions (and even then not always) and the local imagination and specifically only by certain procedural requirements and monetary limits contained in Act 481 itself. While Act 481 recently has been thoroughly amended by the Act of December 31, 1965, P. L. 1257, 53 P.S. §§ 6901-6923, the present case arose prior to these amendments and must be viewed in light of the statute as it existed at the time.
On November 2, 1965, the supervisors of Union Township adopted a resolution imposing an occupation tax upon all residents and inhabitants of the township. The tax was imposed at a rate of twenty percent (20%) upon stated assessed values of various occupations and was effective for the fiscal year 1965 (January 4, 1965 to January 3, 1966). This tax resolution was the second to have been adopted by the supervisors during 1965. The first, which was adopted on February 16, 1965, was found invalid by the lower court on November 4, 1965.
On March 24, 1966, five residents of Union Township (the present appellees) brought an action in equity to enjoin the township, the supervisors and the tax collector from collecting any tax under the resolution of November 2, 1965. They alleged various reasons for their attack on the resolution. These may be summarized as follows: (1) Act 481 provides that no tax imposed thereunder shall go into effect until thirty days after adoption of the tax resolution, yet the tax here was imposed retroactively for the entire fiscal
year; (2) the tax, in actuality, was a per capita tax and thus was not only in excess of the maximum limit for such a tax under Act 481, but also was invalid because the township and its school district had already levied per capita taxes to the maximum allowed; (3) the township's budget did not accurately reflect the estimated revenue from the tax, nor provide for the appropriation of this revenue; (4) the resolution included certain occupations in the classes of taxables which were exempt from tax and, additionally, was too vague in its classifications; (5) the tax, when added to the existing real estate tax in the township, exceeded the total allowable millage under The Second Class Township Code, § 905, 53 P.S. § 65905; and (6) a percentage occupation tax could not be levied under Act 481 in any event but had to be imposed under The Second Class Township Code which made the fourth Monday in March the last day for so doing.
The defendants (appellants) appropriately answered; testimony and other evidence were presented; and on October 31, 1966, the court below entered its decree nisi. In its opinion the court upheld the resolution and refused to enjoin the defendants. On the various issues posed the court ruled as follows: (1) there is no invalidity in the timing of the resolution since it could be imposed at any time during the fiscal year as long as there remained more than thirty days in such year; (2) to the extent the resolution attempted to impose the tax on all persons over twenty-one years of age and residing in the township but following no occupation or calling, it was invalid; but this invalidity was severable and did not affect the remainder of the resolution; ...