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WYNNE (04/23/69)

decided: April 23, 1969.

WYNNE, INC. TAX ASSESSMENT CASE


Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, No. 62-593 and No. 65-15604, in re appeal of Thomas Wynne, Inc. from Board for the Assessment and Revision of Taxes.

COUNSEL

Morris Gerber, with him Cassin W. Craig, David M. Jordan, Harry Norman Ball, and Wisler, Pearlstine, Talone & Gerber, for appellant.

John E. Forsythe, Township Solicitor, with him Herbert Bass, Roger B. Reynolds, Anthony J. Giangiulio, and MacCoy, Evans & Lewis, for appellees.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Jones. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen. Mr. Chief Justice Bell joins in this dissent.

Author: Jones

[ 434 Pa. Page 61]

This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County fixing the tax assessment of the Thomas Wynne Apartments in Lower Merion Township at $1,033,333.33 for the taxable years 1962 through 1966.

This tax assessment controversy arose when the taxpayer, Thomas Wynne, Inc. (appellant), appealed to the court the 1962 tax assessment of $1,144,000.00 placed by the Montgomery County Board for the Assessment and Revision of Taxes (Board) on its apartment building. By agreement of counsel, hearing on

[ 434 Pa. Page 62]

    this appeal was continued indefinitely while attempts were made to reach an amicable settlement. When all attempts at a settlement broke down in 1965, the taxing authorities*fn* filed an answer to appellant's petition. The parties then stipulated that appellant would have the right to appeal the 1963 through 1966 assessments nunc pro tunc in addition to the appeal from the 1962 assessment. After hearings, the court below fixed the new assessment at $1,033,333.33 for each of the five years in dispute.

Appellant's first assignment of error is the alleged refusal of the court below to consider the tax assessment on the apartment building for the years 1959 through 1961, during which time the building was assessed at $902,900.00. Appellant argues that the court was bound to consider prior assessments in reviewing the current assessments because of our decision in Pennsylvania's Northern Lights Shoppers City, Inc. Appeal, 419 Pa. 31, 213 A.2d 268 (1965). The court did admit the prior assessment into evidence, and the record indicates that the court did consider the prior assessment but discounted the impact of the assessment because it did not reflect the true market value of the apartment building.

In opposing the admission of the prior assessment into evidence, counsel for the taxing authorities explained that the previous assessment was the result of a compromise between the parties. It appears that the Board had incorrectly notified appellant that its building had been re-assessed at $902,900.00. Although the taxing authorities felt they were not bound by this mistake since the correct amount of the assessment had been noted on the tax rolls, nevertheless they

[ 434 Pa. Page 63]

    decided that they should not take advantage of a taxpayer by reason of a legal technicality and agreed to accept the lower assessed value. The court below, being of the opinion that this compromise settlement did not reflect the true market value of the apartment building, concluded the prior assessment was of such a nature that it had little probative value in reviewing the validity of the current assessment. Under the circumstances, the court below did not commit reversible error in finding that the prior assessment had little, if any, probative value. In Northern Lights, we did not hold, expressly or impliedly, that a trial court was bound or concluded by prior assessments. In the case at bar, the ...


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