Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in cases of United States Steel Corporation v. Board of Property Assessment, Appeals, and Review of Allegheny County, No. 1603 July Term, 1971; and United States Steel Corporation v. Board of Revision of Taxes and Appeals of the City of Clairton, No. 2881 July Term, 1971.
Edward W. Siefert, with him Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for appellant.
John Arch, for appellee, Board of Revision of Taxes and Appeals of the City of Clairton.
William J. Fahey, for appellee, Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review of Allegheny County.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Wilkinson. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Mencer. Judges Kramer and Blatt join in this dissent.
[ 27 Pa. Commw. Page 424]
These appeals arise from an adjudication of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County which sustained in part and reversed in part real estate tax assessments by the Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review of Allegheny County and the Board of Revision of Taxes and Appeals of the City of Clairton (hereinafter referred to collectively as the Boards). In 1968, appellees included in their real estate tax assessments of appellant's Clairton facilities a regenerator building at $185,000 and three ammonia tanks at $125,000 each. Following dismissals of the appeals by the Boards, appellant filed an appeal from each dismissal to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Because of the similarity of the appeals they were consolidated for hearing both here and below. The lower court sustained the appeals as to the regenerator building, but refused the appeals as to the three ammonia tanks. The Boards did not appeal the decision as to the regenerator building.
The question presented to this Court is whether or not the ammonia tanks in question are to be excluded for purposes of the real estate assessment. The pertinent statutory authority is Section 201 of the General County Assessment Law, Act of May 22, 1933, P.L. 853, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5020-201, which provides in part:
The following subjects and property shall, as hereinafter provided, be valued and assessed, and subject to taxation for all county, city, borough, town, township, school and poor purposes at the annual rate:
[ 27 Pa. Commw. Page 425]
(a) All real estate, to wit: House, house trailers and mobilehomes buildings permanently attached to land or connected with water, gas, electric or sewage facilities, buildings, lands, lots of ground and ground rents, trailer parks and parking lots, mills and manufactories of all kinds, furnaces, forges, bloomeries, distilleries, sugar houses, malt houses, breweries, tan yards, fisheries, and ferries, wharves, and all other real estate not exempt by law from taxation. Machinery, tools, appliances and other equipment contained in any mill, mine, manufactory or industrial establishment shall not be considered or included as a part of the real estate in determining the value of such mill, mine, manufactory or industrial establishment. . . .
This section has become known as the "Machinery Exclusion." The issue before us is whether or not the three ammonia tanks are within the "Machinery Exclusion," and thus excluded from the assessment.
The leading case authority in this area is Jones and Laughlin Tax Assessment Case, 405 Pa. 421, 175 A.2d 856 (1961).*fn1 In that case the Supreme Court, after a careful review of the prior law, set out the criteria to be used in ...