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GRACE BUILDING CO. v. TAX CLAIM BUREAU LEHIGH COUNTY (01/16/76)

decided: January 16, 1976.

GRACE BUILDING CO., INC., W. B. DODGE, JR., FLORENCE HUGHES, GARY ZUBY AND BREINIG BUILDING CO., INC., APPELLANTS
v.
TAX CLAIM BUREAU OF LEHIGH COUNTY, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County in case of Grace Building Co., Inc., W. B. Dodge, Jr., Florence Hughes, Gary Zuby, and Breinig Building Co., Inc. v. Tax Claim Bureau of Lehigh County, No. 227 January Term, 1975.

COUNSEL

Alfred O. Breinig, Jr., for appellants.

Randall W. Snyder, for appellee.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Blatt.

Author: Blatt

[ 23 Pa. Commw. Page 23]

The appellants own certain property in the City of Allentown upon which "municipal claims" for curbing, paving, weed cutting, water lateral, and the abatement of nuisances are delinquent and unpaid. These unpaid claims were returned to the Tax Claim Bureau (Bureau) and docketed therein thus becoming claims which it is asserted may ultimately cause the property to be sold at a tax sale even though no delinquent "tax claims" had been returned to the Bureau. The appellants, after taking exceptions to the return of the claims, petitioned the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County requesting that said claims be stricken from the dockets of the Bureau for lack of authority to have them returned to the Bureau in the first place. At issue is the Real Estate Tax Sale Law*fn1 which authorizes the return of unpaid taxes to the Bureau, and the court below has held that the Tax Sale Law authorizes the return of municipal claims as well as tax claims. It has, therefore, denied the appellants' petition to have those municipal claims stricken from the Bureau Dockets.

Section 306(a) of the Tax Sale Law, 72 P.S. § 5860.306(a) which authorizes the return of property and delinquent taxes provides:

[ 23 Pa. Commw. Page 24]

"It shall be the duty of each receiver or collector of any county, city, borough, town, township, school district or institution district taxes, to make a return to the county bureau . . . a list of all properties against which taxes were levied, the whole or any part of which were due and payable in the calendar year immediately preceding which remain unpaid. . . ." (Emphasis added.)

There is no similar express authority authorizing the return of unpaid municipal claims.

The Bureau argued convincingly before the lower court that the intent of the Tax Sale Law was to provide for the treatment and processing of delinquent municipal claims in the same manner and by the same agencies which process delinquent tax claims. We disagree and therefore reverse.

Throughout the Tax Sale Law taxes and municipal claims are referred to as separate and distinct charges against property. For example, the public sale of property operates to divest "[t]he lien of all taxes and municipal claims" levied against the property and due thereon. Section 304 of the Tax Sale Law, 72 P.S. § 5860.304. In addition, this same section provides that the Bureau and the various officers "having claims or judgments and municipal claims for collection" (Emphasis added.) against a property which is to be sold at public sale must notify the person selling the property of the amount of tax liens of the Commonwealth, and the amount of all taxes and municipal claims against the property so that these claims may be paid from the proceeds of ...


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