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PICKAR v. OWEN J. ROBERTS SCHOOL DISTRICT (01/03/72)

decided: January 3, 1972.

PICKAR
v.
OWEN J. ROBERTS SCHOOL DISTRICT



Appeal from the Decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County in case of Leo W. Pickar v. Owen J. Roberts School District, No. 40 Nov. Term, 1968.

COUNSEL

James E. McErlane, with him Susan P. Windle and Lamb, Windle & McErlane, for appellant.

Lawrence Sager, with him Sager & Sager, for appellee.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Manderino and Mencer. Judge Rogers disqualified himself. Opinion by President Judge Bowman. Opinion by Judge Kramer (Concurring in Part and Dissenting in Part).

Author: Bowman

[ 4 Pa. Commw. Page 274]

This appeal raises the question of the legal duty of the Owen J. Roberts School District to refund certain occupation taxes declared by our Supreme Court in Lynch v. Owen J. Roberts School District, Appellant, 430 Pa. 461, 470, 244 A.2d 1, 5-6 (1968) to have been improperly collected. "We therefore hold that the 'Tax Anything Acts' of 1947 and 1965 [Act of June 25, 1947, P.L. 1145, as amended, 53 P.S. § 6851 and the Local Tax Enabling Act of December 31, 1965, P.L. 1257, 53 P.S. § 6902] permit the school district to pass an occupation tax (levy), compute the amount owed by each taxpayer (assess) and secure the tax revenue itself (collect). But this school district cannot place its own value on the occupations to be taxed. This may be done only by the county assessor, who bears the responsibility for valuing all the subjects and objects of taxation in his county. We believe that public policy is better served by insuring that a subject of taxation, be it property, occupation, or any other legitimate taxable, have but a single value fixed to it -- and this requires a

[ 4 Pa. Commw. Page 275]

    single valuing officer. It follows that, in the present case, since appellees' occupations were not valued by the county assessor, but instead by the school district's tax director, appellant was properly enjoined from collecting its tax."

The Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, in a taxpayers suit initiated in 1967, enjoined the school district from collecting such occupation taxes because the underlying taxing scheme was both unconstitutional for lack of uniformity and statutorily invalid in providing for valuation of occupations by the school district rather than by the county assessor. Lynch v. Owen J. Roberts School District, 16 Chest. Co. Rep. 63 (1967). The Supreme Court declined to consider the constitutional issue and affirmed the lower court on the second ground alone.

Refunds for occupation taxes paid were sought pursuant to the Act of May 21, 1943, P.L. 349, Section 1, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5566(b), which provides in relevant part: "Whenever any person or corporation of this Commonwealth has paid or caused to be paid, or hereafter pays or causes to be paid, into the treasury of any political subdivision, directly or indirectly, voluntarily or under protest, any taxes of any sort, license fees, penalties, fines or any other moneys to which the political subdivision is not legally entitled; then, in such cases, the proper authorities of the political subdivision, upon the filing with them of a written and verified claim for the refund of the payment, are hereby directed to make, out of budget appropriations of public funds, refund of such taxes, license fees, penalties, fines or other moneys to which the political subdivision is not legally entitled. Refunds of said moneys shall not be made, unless a written claim therefor is filed, with the political subdivision involved, within two years of payment thereof."

[ 4 Pa. Commw. Page 276]

Plaintiff-appellee filed a verified claim for refund on August 2, 1968, within the statutorily defined two-year period.*fn1 The Board of Directors for the school district denied by resolution the refund claim on August 13, 1968. This assumpsit action followed.*fn2

The school district both in its argument before this Court and before the lower court challenges this taxpayer's right to claim a refund under the above-quoted statutory provisions because of the failure of the taxpayer to ...


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