The Pennsylvania State Tax Equalization Board (“STEB”) has released the Common Level Ratio (“CLR”) real estate valuation factors for 2018.  The common level ratio is the ratio of assessed value to market value used to value properties in a particular county for property tax purposes, and is used for purposes of appealing property tax assessments effective for tax year 2020.  Click here to see the 2018 CLR list.  To determine if your property is currently over-assessed – take the properties current assessed value and divide it by the CLR listed for your county.  This will give you your property’s current implied fair market value.  If you know that your property’s current fair market value is for example $100,000 (based on a recent appraisal value) and the current implied fair market value is $200,000, then your property is over-assessed and an annual assessment appeal should be filed to lower your assessed value and consequently your real estate taxes.  If you have any questions regarding the CLR and how to determine if your property is over-assessed, please call Paul Morcom (717-237-5364) or Randy Varner (717-237-5464) to discuss.

The annual assessment appeal deadline of August 1, 2019 for assessed values effective for tax year January 1, 2020 is quickly approaching for the following Pennsylvania Counties:

Adams, Bucks, Butler, Cambria, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Fayette, Franklin, Indiana, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton and York.

The annual assessment appeal deadline of September 1, 2019 for assessed values effective for tax year January 1, 2020 is on the horizon for the following Pennsylvania Counties:

Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Bradford, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Crawford, Cumberland, Elk, Forest, Fulton, Greene, Huntington, Jefferson, Juniata, Lackawanna, Lebanon, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Somerset, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Venango, Warren, Washington, Wayne and Westmoreland.

There are a few oddball counties that have to be different and thus the annual assessment appeal deadline for Berks County is August 15, 2019 and Wyoming County is August 31, 2019.  Philadelphia County is not a specific date, but instead the annual appeal deadline is the first Monday in October, which is the 7th this year. Allegheny County is the only county that has a deadline, March 31, that is actually during the year that you are appealing. Thus, the appeal deadline for assessed values effective for tax year January 1, 2020 in Allegheny County is March 31, 2020.

Each county has its own separate set of local rules pertaining to assessment appeals that need to be navigated in order to successfully file an annual assessment appeal.  If you own or lease commercial or industrial properties in Pennsylvania, please make sure that you are aware of these appeal deadlines. Additionally, if you are not sure if you should file an appeal on your property, please contact either Paul Morcom at 717-237-5364 or Randy Varner at 717-237-5464 to determine if an appeal is warranted for tax year 2020.

On July 26th from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m., McNees State and Local Tax team members Randy Varner and Paul Morcom will conduct a webinar for the Pennsylvania Society of Tax and Accounting Professionals.  The webinar will focus on reverse audits and recovering overpaid sales tax.  For more information, go to https://www.pstap.org/professional-education-events/cpe-catalog/?eventid=1389

 

The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Property Assessment has recently begun to send out Notices of Property Market Value for 2020.  If you think your proposed 2020 Market Value is incorrect, you may request an informal review by filing a First Level Review form by May 24, 2019.  If you choose to file a formal appeal, the appeal application must be submitted to the Board of Revision of Taxes on or before October 7, 2019.  Unlike most assessment appeal deadlines in Pennsylvania, which are either August 1 or September 1, Philadelphia’s assessment appeal deadline is the first Monday in October, which is October 7 this year.

Please contact Paul Morcom (717-237-5364) or Randy Varner (717-237-5464) if you have any questions regarding your 2020 Market value or Philadelphia’s appeal procedure.

Property owners in Allegheny County have until April 1, 2019 to file assessment appeals this year.  The usual appeal deadline in Allegheny County is March 31.  However, because March 31 falls on a Sunday the deadline is moved to the next business day, or April 1, 2019.

If you have any questions about appealing your property in Allegheny County, please contact Paul Morcom (717-237-5364) or Randy Varner (717-237-5464).

They’re Off and Running….

 

On January 28-30, 2019 both the House and Senate were back to kick off the 2019/2020 legislative session and wasted no time to introduce bills, which are of interest to tax practitioners. I’ve grouped the legislation by type for ease of reference. As in the movie Groundhog Day, some legislation is back for a second or third round.

Corporate Net Income Tax (CNI)

The House introduced bills to reduce the CNI to:

5.99% (HB70; Rothman); and 3.07% (HB72; Rothman)

 

The Senate joined in with proposals to reduce the CNI:

to 6.99% by reductions of .5%/yr. through 2024 (SB32; Brooks)

 

Also, of note is the resurrection of last session’s trio of bills to conform PA law to the IRC: like-kind exchange bill (HB105; Cox), which will parallel IRC §1031. The Senate companion bill is SB 201 (DiSanto). The NOL bill (SB 202; J. Ward); and Section 179 bill (SB 203; Hutchinson)

 

Deferral of capital gains on sale of stock of a business to an ESOP (IRC §1042)(SB 179; Browne)

Deferral of capital gains on investments in QOZ (SB 180; Browne)

 

Personal Income Tax

Impacts on PIT may be the result of bills which:

authorize per diems to support necessary, ordinary and reasonable   business expense (HB 69; Ryan)

—repeal the 1099-MISC non-resident withholding requirement (HB34; Ryan)

—impose a statute of limitations of 10 years (HB17; Ryan)

— increase the poverty tax exemption by an annual index (HB123; D. Miller) and Senate companion increases the exemption to $10,500 and $34,00 (SB 220; Hughes)

— authorize a delinquent income tax grace period (HB25; Snyder)

—-establish a first responders’ tax credit; (HB 208; Deasy)

 

Other tax credits under consideration will be:

educational investments in economically depressed areas (HB 42; Snyder)

pediatric cancer research (HB174; Caltagirone)

REAP credit eligibility clarification to include “individuals filing jointly”  (HB 241; Pickett)

—film tax credit carry forward, carry back and assignment among a consolidated group (SB225; Killion)

—increases cap on Manufacturing Tax Credit from $4mm-12.5mm (SB 266; Hughes)

—50% of toll expenses (HB 329; Warren)

—Adoption ($1,000) and foster care ($500) (HB296; Toohil)

 

Inheritance Tax

The House will consider bills designed to:

—eliminate the inheritance tax in full (HB77; Rothman)

—eliminate the inheritance tax for children age 21 and under (HB262; Metzgar)

And on the Senate side:

—phase out over 8 years the inheritance tax for siblings (SB27; Brooks)

—reduce inheritance tax on non-sibling relatives and phase out to 0 by 7/1/29 (SB28; Brooks)

Sales and Use Tax

            Both the House and the Senate are attempting to provide some relief for  firefighters:

—exclusion for purchase of firefighting equipment from firefighters’ own DiSanto (SB121)  

funds (HB209; Deasy) with a similar bill authorizing a tax credit of up to $500 (HB 376; Owlettt)

—exemptions on sales of prepared foods by volunteer fire companies (SB 83; Martin)

Solar energy use encouraged via exemption from sales tax (SB 148; Hughes)

—exemption for equipment for the visually impaired (SB 175; Browne)

And the House is looking out for banks in clarifying the application of sales  and use tax on canned and customized software for financial institutions(HB 19; Sankey)

—exemption clarification for traffic signals to include foundations, posts and mast arms ((HB 304; Toohil)

Home safety and school safety are the focuses of a sales tax exemption and a news sales tax imposition:

—exemptions on gun safe and vault purchases (SB103; Hutchinson)

—imposes a new 10% sales tax on video games with adult only or mature ratings (HB109; Quinn)

Realty Transfer Tax

            —exemption for children or surviving spouse if family home is sold within 5  yrs. of death (HB269; Driscoll)

 

 

Property Tax

— imposes real estate tax on PASSHE, state-related colleges, community colleges and independent colleges (HB191; Cruz)

—Authorizes local taxation of natural gas hazardous liquids pipelines (SB 264; Dinniman)

—Requires school boards to calculate and disclose unfunded pension liability

—property tax clean up legislation (HB 330; Emrick)

Tax Increment Financing

            —Includes wage tax revenue (SB 171; Browne) and state and local sales tax  (SB 172; Brown) in tax increment.

 

Property Tax and Rent Rebate Program

Amends the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006 to:

—increase the income cap from $35,000 to $40,000

—prohibit assignment of rent rebates to a landlord (HB207; Deasy).

—exclude Medicare Part B payments from income(SB 272; J. Ward)

 

State Long-Term Leases

—requires legislative approval of state long-term leases which appear to have been used to circumvent legislative or voter approval of state  debt issuances. (HB 363; Lawrence)

Collection of Delinquent Taxes

—creates independent authority to act as clearinghouse for all state and local delinquent taxes

Constitutional Amendments

            —limits growth in state spending to the lower of two indices: avg. change in personal income for the 3 preceding calendar yrs. OR the avg. inflation rate plus the avg. percentage change in the state population over the  preceding 3 yrs. (SB116; Bartolotta)

—requires a 2/3 vote of the legislature to increase taxes. (SB121; DiSanto)

—exempts 100% disabled vets without the “injury due to war service” (HB 287; Simmons)

— eliminates all property taxes as of 7-1-26 (HB 382; Diamond)

 

Fasten your seat belts and call the State and Local Tax group or the Government Relations practice group at McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC for more information.

The McNees State and Local Tax Group will be presenting two upcoming webinars.  The first, on Thursday, January 31, 2019 from 12:00 p.m. until 12:45 p.m., will be presented by Randy L. Varner and Paul R. Morcom and will cover reverse audits and how they can help your bottom line.  More information, including instructions to register, can be found here:  https://www.mcneeslaw.com/reverse-audits-prnnsylvania/

The second, covering the Pennsylvania 2019-2020 tax proposals and budget, will be held on Thursday, February 7, 2019 from 12:00 p.m. until 12:45 p.m., and will be presented by Randy L. Varner and Sharon R. Paxton.  More information, including instructions to register, can be found here:  https://www.mcneeslaw.com/pennsylvania-tax-outlook-webinar/

We hope that you are able to join us for one or both of these webinars.  Please hurry and register because space is limited!

 

On January 8, 2019, in Sales and Use Tax Bulletin 2019-01, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has provided nexus guidance in the post-Wayfair environment.  The provisions of the bulletin apply to transactions on or after July 1, 2019.

Current Law:

The Tax Reform Code requires every person maintaining a place of business in the Commonwealth to sell tangible personal property, or perform taxable services, to be licensed to, and collect, sales tax from its customers.  72 P.S. § 7202, 7208.  “Maintaining a place of business in the Commonwealth,” includes “[h]aving any contact with this Commonwealth that would allow the Commonwealth to require a person to collect and remit tax under the Constitution of the United States.”  Id.

Post-Wayfair:

In the bulletin, the Department states that in light of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Wayfair that physical presence is not required by the United States Constitution, and that an economic nexus, such as that set forth in the South Dakota statute, is sufficient to past constitutional muster, that a substantial economic nexus satisfies the Tax Reform Code’s definition of maintaining a place of business, requiring a taxpayer to collect and remit Pennsylvania sales tax.

Vendor Protections:

The bulletin provides that economic nexus applies only to those persons who, in the previous twelve months, made more than $100,000 worth of taxable sales into the Commonwealth.  There is no minimum number of transactions provided as an alternative, unlike the South Dakota statute in Wayfair.

A marketplace facilitator with no physical presence in Pennsylvania should use both facilitated and direct sales to determine whether the $100,000 threshold is met.  A marketplace seller with no physical presence in Pennsylvania should use only its direct sales and those sales made through a marketplace facilitator that does not collect sales tax on its behalf, to determine whether it has met the $100,000 threshold.

The Department will certify service providers that will offer software and perform services that when relied upon by a vendor to determine whether or not the sale of a particular product or provision of a particular service is subject to sales tax will relieve the vendor of liability upon audit.  The certified service provider will also aid in the registration, collection, reporting, and remittance of sales tax.

Coordination with the Marketplace Sales Act:

These new economic nexus rules do not replace or provide an alternative to the Marketplace Sales Act.  The provisions of that act remain applicable to vendors that have neither physical presence nor economic nexus with the Commonwealth.  One important point: if economic nexus exists, facilitators and sellers may not elect to simply provide notice–they must collect and remit sales tax.  Also, if a marketplace facilitator has economic nexus, it will now be required to collect the sales tax on all sales into Pennsylvania, even if the sale is on behalf of a marketplace seller that does not individually have any nexus.

The provisions of the Bulletin shall apply to transactions that occur on or after July 1, 2019.

The Department will be adding procedural and technical guidance, as well as the certified services providers, to its website as they become available.

It is likely that much of this bulletin will become part of a legislative package.  Please keep following this blog for more information and updates.

 

In In Re: Consolidated Appeals of Chester-Upland School District and Chichester School District v. Board of Assessment Appeals of Delaware County, 633 C.D. 2017 (12/27/18), the Commonwealth Court (“Court”) vacated the trial court’s April 27, 2017 Order ruling that Chester-Upland School District and Chichester School District (“Appellants”) may not consider the presence of an outdoor advertising sign on a property when determining its fair market value for the purposes of a real estate tax assessment.

The Consolidated County Assessment Law (“CCAL”) excludes signs and sign structures from real estate taxation as follows:

No sign or sign structure primarily used to support or display a sign shall be assessed as real property by a county for purposes of the taxation of real property by the county or a political subdivision located within the county or by a municipality located within the county authorized to assess real property for purposes of taxation, regardless of whether the sign or sign structure has become affixed to the real estate.

53 Pa. C.S. § 8811(b)(4).

On appeal to Court, Appellants acknowledged that a billboard and the structure that supports it are not to be considered as part of an assessment of property pursuant to Section 8811(b)(4), but the sign-and-sign-structure exclusion does not preclude assessment of the land on which a billboard sits and the consideration of income derived from a lease of that land for the purpose of erecting and operating a billboard.

The Court found that Section 8811(b)(4), like other exclusions of that subsection, plainly requires by its text only that the physical billboard sign and the structure that supports the sign be excluded from the valuation, but this provision does not have any effect on a taxing authorities valuation of the land and other non-excluded or non-exempt taxable real estate situated on that land.

The Court looked to Tech One Associates v. Board of Property Assessments, Appeals and Review of Allegheny County, 53 A.3d 685 (Pa. 2012) to determine that when real estate is subject to a long-term lease, the portions of the property subject to a leasehold interest cannot be disregarded in valuing the property.

Accordingly, the Court held that the trial court erroneously interpreted the sign-and-sign-structure exclusion of Section 8811(b)(4) to foreclose any consideration of any potential income that a property owner may receive from the placement of a billboard on the property in arriving at a fair market value. Thus, the Court remanded the matter back to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with its holding.

Please contact Paul Morcom (717-237-5364) or Randy Varner (717-237-5464) if you have any questions regarding this decision.

In Betters, et. al. v. Beaver County, 152 C.D. 2018 (12/18/18), the Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial court’s determination that Beaver County’s (“County”) base-year method of property valuation violated the Uniformity Clause of Article VIII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the Consolidated Assessment law and mandated the County to complete a countywide reassessment by 2020. The County appealed the trial court’s order claiming that the trial court erred by refusing to exclude objected-to expert testimony and in determining that the Taxpayers were entitled to relief despite the fact they did not introduce any evidence that they have suffered a specific harm to their particular properties.

In December of 2015, a group of taxpayers (the “Taxpayers”) filed a complaint in mandamus to compel the County to perform a countywide reassessment. The Taxpayers alleged that the last countywide reassessment was in 1982, and that the County has been applying insufficient and outdated methods for valuing properties, which are grossly inequitable and non-uniform. During a nonjury trial, the Taxpayers offered testimony from two expert witnesses regarding expert conclusions pertaining to data that was compiled by two of their colleagues that did not testify.  That data was used to determine that the County had a coefficient of dispersion of 34.5%, thus indicating that the system of tax assessment employed by the County was not uniform. The County and Green Township (“Township”) objected to the conclusions during trial arguing that they were hearsay because the data collectors did not testify and thus there was not a proper foundation for the expert’s conclusions. However, the trial court overruled the objections and ultimately found that the base-year method of valuation employed by the County violates the Uniformity Clause and the Assessment Law because it does not reflect, uniformly and accurately, the proper assessed values of the 96,000 parcels in the County.

At Commonwealth Court, the County argued that the trial court erred by admitting the expert conclusions into evidence over the County and Township’s objections because the facts upon which the expert relied were not articulated or made part of the record pursuant to Rule 705 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence. The Commonwealth Court noted that in Commonwealth v. Thomas, 282 A.2d 693 (Pa. 1971), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court permitted an exception to the rule allowing experts to rely upon reports of others not in evidence, i.e., inadmissible hearsay, provided the reports were of a type customarily relied on by the expert in the field in forming opinions. Additionally, the Commonwealth Court mentioned that Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence 104 allows the rules of evidence to not apply when the judge is the fact finder. Accordingly, the Commonwealth Court determined that the trial court did not err or abuse its discretion by admitting the expert testimony over the objections because the County and Township chose not to subpoena the data gatherers and because the County offered no basis upon which to conclude that the data gathered and relied upon by the experts was unreliable.

The County also argued that the trial court erred by denying the County’s motions for nonsuit where the Taxpayers failed to introduce any evidence of a harm or damage personal to them. The Commonwealth Court quickly dispatched this argument by concluding that the Taxpayers here challenged the entire statutory scheme of valuation in the County as violative of the Uniformity Clause and thus under Clifton v. Allegheny County, 969 A.2d 1197 (Pa. 2009), evidence of a harm or damage personal to them was not required.

Please contact Paul Morcom (717-237-5364) or Randy Varner (717-237-5464) if you have any questions regarding this decision.