Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County in the case of Odd Fellows' Home of Pennsylvania v. Board of Tax Appeals of Dauphin County, No. 960 S 1980.
Herbert A. Schaffner, Reynolds, Bihl and Schaffner, for appellant.
James Curtis Wood, Shumaker and Williams, for appellee.
Judges Rogers, MacPhail and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle. Judge Mencer did not participate in the decision in this case.
[ 67 Pa. Commw. Page 228]
This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County which partially sustained and partially denied an appeal brought by the Odd Fellows' Home of Pennsylvania (Appellee) from a decision of the Board of Tax Appeals of Dauphin County (Board) denying Appellee's request for a property tax exemption. We will affirm in part and reverse in part.
Appellee is the owner and operator of a non-profit nursing and retirement home located on an approximately one hundred acre tract of land in Lower Swatara Township, Dauphin County. From 1974 through 1979, Appellee's property was assessed for, and Appellee duly paid, real estate taxes imposed by Dauphin County, Lower Swatara Township, and the Middletown Area School District. In a letter dated October 25, 1979, however, Appellee appealed its assessment to the Board arguing that its home was an institution of "benevolence or charity[,]" and hence exempted from taxation by Section 202(a)(3) of The Fourth to Eighth Class County Assessment Law (Assessment Law), Act of May 21, 1943, P.L. 571, as amended, 72
[ 67 Pa. Commw. Page 229]
P.S. § 5453.202.*fn1 In this letter, Appellee requested an exemption from school, county, and township taxes "effective August 5, 1949[,]" and further requested, citing Section 1 of the Act of May 21, 1943 (Refund Law), P.L. 349, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5566b, a refund of all real estate taxes it had paid on its property for the 1978 tax year. Following a meeting of the Board on December 21, 1979, the Board, in a letter dated December 27, 1979, informed Appellee, without explanation, that its request for a property tax exemption was denied.*fn2 Appellee subsequently appealed this determination to the court of common pleas, pursuant to the provisions of Section 704 of the Assessment Law, 72 P.S. § 5453.704.
Before the lower court, the Board asserted that Appellee was not entitled to a tax exemption since certain residents of the home paid rent to Appellee, and since a seventy (70) acre portion of Appellee's property was rented to a commercial farmer.*fn3 The Board also noted that it did not believe that Appellee was entitled to a tax refund pursuant to the provisions of Section 1 of the Refund Law since it had failed to appeal its assessments in prior years pursuant to the provisions of Section 701 of the Assessment Law, 72 P.S. § 5453.701. Appellee, for its part, argued (1) that its entire property was devoted to charitable purposes
[ 67 Pa. Commw. Page 230]
and was thus tax exempt, and (2) that Section 1 of the Refund Law permitted the court of common pleas to award a refund of up to two years of previously paid property taxes where a taxpayer was successful in an assessment appeal. In conformity with this latter argument, Appellee filed an amendment to its Notice of Appeal to the Court of Common Pleas requesting an order from the Court directing a refund of appellee's 1979 as well as 1978 real estate tax payments.*fn4
Thereafter, on January 13, 1981, the lower court issued an opinion and order (1) affirming the Board's decision insofar as it denied a tax exemption to the seventy (70) acre portion of Appellee's property which was rented to a commercial farmer, (2) reversing the Board's denial of a tax exempt status for the remaining portion of Appellee's property,*fn5 and (3) granting a refund of real estate taxes ...