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ESTATE HARRY A. KULJIAN v. TAX REVIEW BOARD (12/03/87)

decided: December 3, 1987.

ESTATE OF HARRY A. KULJIAN, DECEASED, C/O M. GEORGE MOORADIAN, ESQUIRE, EXECUTOR, APPELLANT
v.
TAX REVIEW BOARD, CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in the case of Estate of Harry A. Kuljian, Deceased v. Tax Review Board of the City of Philadelphia, No. 3257, May Term, 1986.

COUNSEL

William G. O'Neill, Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell & Hippel, for appellant.

T. Braden Kiser, Assistant City Solicitor, with him, Andrew P. Bralow, Divisional Deputy City Solicitor, Handsel B. Minyard, City Solicitor, for appellee.

Judges MacPhail and Palladino, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.

Author: Palladino

[ 111 Pa. Commw. Page 452]

The Estate of Harry A. Kuljian (Appellant) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (trial court) which affirmed the decision of the Tax Review Board of the City of Philadelphia (Board) finding Appellant liable for city wage taxes totaling $48,281 which were withheld during the years 1974-78, plus interest and penalties. We affirm.

In 1930, Harry A. Kuljian formed the Harry A. Kuljian Company (Company) as a sole proprietorship engaged in performing architectural and engineering services. In the mid-1940's, Mr. Kuljian and a partner formed a separate entity which they called the Harry A. Kuljian Corporation (Corporation). At the time of the formation of the Corporation, Pennsylvania law forbade the performance of architectural services by corporations.

[ 111 Pa. Commw. Page 453]

For this reason, the Company performed the architectural aspects of the services performed by the two entities, while the Corporation performed industrial engineering services. Although Pennsylvania law was subsequently changed to permit architectural corporations, the Company was kept in existence. The employees of the Company were professionals such as draftspersons, designers and project engineers whose time was billable to clients, while the employees of the Corporation were primarily support personnel. The two entities maintained separate employee lists and payroll accounts, independent checking accounts, and filed separate federal and city tax returns. In 1974, Mr. Kuljian died, and in 1978, the corporation was sold.

The focus of this tax appeal concerns the years 1974 to 1978. In 1980, the City audited the Company and found that, while it had deducted withholding taxes from its employees' paychecks for those years, it had not remitted them to the City. Thus, the City assessed the sum of $48,281.00 against Appellant as owner of the Company. In addition the City added $91,393.47 in interest and penalties. Appellant appealed to the Board contending that the Corporation, not the Company, was the employer for the purposes of city wage taxes, and therefore that the City should assess the Corporation rather than the Company.

The Board held two hearings at which Appellant's witness testified concerning the relationship between the Company and the Corporation. The purpose of this testimony was to attempt to show that the Company was simply a paper figurehead acting as a mere conduit for the Corporation and therefore that the Corporation was the "true" employer for tax assessment purposes. The Board nevertheless found that the Company was the employer and affirmed the assessment against Appellant. However, the Board did abate two-thirds of the penalties assessed upon the condition that Appellant

[ 111 Pa. Commw. Page 454]

    enter into an installment arrangement with the City for payment of sums owed. Appellant appealed to the trial court which affirmed the assessment but reinstated the entire penalty amounts because ...


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