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COMMONWEALTH v. MORRIS HALF HOUR LAUNDROMAT (04/22/71)

decided: April 22, 1971.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
MORRIS HALF HOUR LAUNDROMAT, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Commonwealth Docket No. 125 of 1967, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Morris Half Hour Laundromat.

COUNSEL

Lewis H. Markowitz, with him Markowitz, Kagen & Griffith, for appellant.

Edward T. Baker, Deputy Attorney General, with him Fred Speaker, Attorney General, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Jones, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy and Barbieri, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Chief Justice Bell took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Roberts

[ 442 Pa. Page 545]

At issue in this appeal is the nature and scope of the duty of an owner of a coin-operated laundromat to

[ 442 Pa. Page 546]

    remit taxes to the Commonwealth under the provisions of the Tax Act of 1963 for Education, Act of March 6, 1956, P. L. (1955) 1228, as amended, 72 P.S. ยง 3403-1 et seq.

Appellant Charles D. Morris, an individual trading and doing business under the name of Morris Half Hour Laundromat, owns and operates a chain of self-service coin-operated laundromats in and around Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The laundromats are unattended in the normal course of business, and appellant visits them only periodically to check upon their cleanliness and to empty the coin boxes. The only significant difference between each of appellant's laundromats concerns the capacity and cost per use of the washing machines. Thus, for example, one location contains ten 8-pound washers with a 25 cents coin slot and two 16-pound washers with a 50 cents coin slot, whereas another location has sixteen single load washers with a 35 cents coin slot, four double load washers with a 50 cents coin slot, and two 30-pound washers with a 75 cents coin slot.

On or about March 16, 1966, an audit of appellant's business was conducted by the Department of Revenue, and on May 10, 1966, he was notified that he owed the Commonwealth for the calendar years 1963 through 1965 additional sales tax in the amount of $2,613.90 and additional use tax in the amount of $374.92, plus interest. Appellant prosecuted unsuccessful administrative appeals before the Sales Tax Board and the Board of Finance and Revenue and thereafter appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County sitting as the Commonwealth Court. On July 9, 1969, that court filed an opinion and order sustaining the Commonwealth's position in all respects. Appellant filed exceptions which were dismissed, and this appeal followed.

In this Court appellant asserts that he does not render a taxable service within the purview of the Tax

[ 442 Pa. Page 547]

Act of 1963 for Education; that the method of assessment employed by the Department of Revenue did not comply with the provisions of the Act; that the Board's method of assessment violated the uniformity clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution; and that the Commonwealth is barred from asserting appellant's tax liability by virtue of its prior collection and present assessment of a sales and use tax upon various equipment, parts, repairs, supplies, ...


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