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JACOB BYNUM v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (11/23/84)

decided: November 23, 1984.

JACOB BYNUM, APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Revenue, Bureau of Liquid Fuels Tax v. Jacob Bynum, No. 4441, December Term, 1976.

COUNSEL

Lillian M. Thornton, for appellant.

Prince Altee Thomas, Deputy Attorney General, for appellee.

Judges Rogers, Craig and Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 156]

Jacob Bynum appeals from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County denying a petition to open judgment in a proceeding which the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue had instituted to satisfy an outstanding liquid fuels tax assessment. We must determine whether Bynum may interpose defenses addressed to the merits of the tax assessment after the department has filed a tax lien and executed on his property.

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 157]

On September 28, 1976, after conducting an audit, the department notified Bynum, who operates a fuel oil supply business, of a liquid fuels tax assessment for the years 1968 through 1976. When Bynum did not respond to that notice, the department, pursuant to Section 13(b) of The Liquid Fuels Tax Act, Act of May 21, 1931, P.L. 149, as amended, 72 P.S. § 2611m(b),*fn1 transmitted the statement of taxes to the prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County who, on December 2, 1976, entered it as a tax lien in the amount of $208,075.95. On December 31, 1976, the department transferred that lien to the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court but took no further action in that court until March 26, 1982, when it filed a writ of revival of judgment. The common pleas court issued a writ of execution on October 21, 1982, and the sheriff then levied on four of Bynum's trucks.

Following execution on the vehicles, Bynum filed his petition to open judgment, which the common pleas court denied, concluding that Bynum had failed to satisfy the tripartite standard for opening judgments.*fn2

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 158]

Both the parties and the trial court have proceeded as if the court had entered a judgment; however, review of the record does not reflect any reduction of the department's lien to judgment.*fn3 Because the record encumbrance is a statutory lien under Section 13(b) of The Liquid Fuels Tax Act, 72 P.S. § 2611m(b), which does not require entry of judgment as its foundation, the proceeding before us may properly be termed a motion to strike the lien. See Department of Revenue, Bureau of Sales and Use Tax v. Street, 81 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 539, 474 A.2d 718 (1984).

Nevertheless, the substance of Bynum's position is that he did not receive proper notice of the tax assessment and lien, that when he did become aware of the assessment in September of 1981 he contacted a deputy attorney general who assured Bynum he would review the matter, and on the merits, that he sold only home heating fuel and was therefore exempt from liquid fuels taxes.

We note initially that the equitable considerations which ordinarily govern petitions to open judgments are not applicable here and that unless some basis exists for striking the lien, the department is entitled to its enforcement. Department of Revenue, Bureau of Sales and Use Tax v. Street, 81 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 539, 474 A.2d 718 (1984). Furthermore, a line of cases in our Supreme Court has firmly established the principle that a taxpayer "who fails to ...


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