Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court, dated October 6, 1986 at No. 29 T.D. 1984, affirming the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Carbon County, dated February 10, 1984, at No. 83 S 91.
Nix, C.j., and Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Zappala and Stout, JJ., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
Father Leo Stajkowski, the appellant, challenges the Carbon County occupation tax levied against him, claiming it burdens his free exercise of religion in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. We agree.
The taxing authorities of Carbon County, pursuant to 72 Pa.S. § 5453.101 et seq., have enacted an occupation tax. The tax is administered by valuing approximately 300 trades and occupations, then levying a tax calculated at a percentage of the value assigned to the occupation. Values assigned to various occupations ranged from a high of $1200 for brewers to a low of $30 for widows, incapacitated cripples, invalids, students, and aged, disabled and unemployed persons. Other classifications included a value of $1000 assigned to judges, surgeons, and wholesale drug dealers, $400 for salesmen, $250 for clergymen, $100 for salesladies, and $50 for housewives and domestics.
Father Stajkowski is a Roman Catholic priest who served as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Palmerton, Carbon
County, Pennsylvania. His ecclesiastical duties included both religious and secular aspects. As a religious leader he carried out the ministry of his church by presiding at liturgical celebrations, administering sacraments, counseling, teaching, and preaching. He was also responsible for management of real estate and business affairs of the parish. He received an annual salary of $5700 and occasional gratuities for his offices at religious ceremonies.
Carbon County commissioners levied a tax on the value of all enumerated occupations at the rate of seventeen mills for the year 1982, resulting in the imposition of a $4.25 tax on the appellant as a clergyman. He appealed to the county board of assessment and revision of taxes, to the court of common pleas, then to the Commonwealth Court, 101 Pa. Commw. 207, 515 A.2d 1035, all of which upheld the tax against the appellant's First Amendment challenge. We granted review to insure that the taxing authority has not placed an impermissible burden on the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the Constitution.
The disputed tax was enacted on the authority of 72 Pa.S. § 5453.201(b), which provides:
§ 5453.201. Subjects of taxation enumerated
The following subjects and property shall as hereinafter provided be valued and assessed and subject to taxation for all county, borough, town, township, school, (except in cities), poor and county institution district purposes, at the annual rate,
(b) All salaries and emoluments of office, all offices and posts of profit, professions, trades and occupations, and all persons over the age of eighteen years who do not follow any occupation or calling, as well as unnaturalized foreign-born persons who shall have resided within this Commonwealth for one whole year as citizens of this Commonwealth.
The tax is a true occupation tax, where "the amount of the levy varies with the assessed ...