6C —April 26 - May 9, 2019 — Spring Preview — M id A tlantic

Real Estate Journal

T axes

By Neil Andrew Stein, Esquire, Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. The Tax Man Will (Continue To) Cometh


roperty taxes imposed by local governments and school districts can be a

upon their real estate holdings being exempt from property taxation. Exemptions are being challenged with much more fre- quency by taxing authorities. In part, this issue emanates from a somewhat complex and tortured legal history for tax ex- emptions. First, Pennsylvania tax exemption law is grounded in the Pennsylvania Consti- tution, which empowers the General Assembly to be exempt from real estate tax "institu- tions of purely public charity," Pa. Const. Art. VIII, §2(a)(v). However, what constitutes a “public charity” is not defined in the legislation. That anomaly

led to a series of court decisions intended to clarify the defini- tion of a public charity and the passage of the “Institutions of Purely Public Charity Act,” 10 P.S. 371 et seq. (Charity Act). While the Charity Act was in- tended to reduce confusion, the courts interpreted the Charity Act as adding a second layer of criteria. Judicial decisions subsequent to the Charity Act have added to the confusion. In a more re- cent case, the Commonwealth Court reviewed an exemption claim by the owner of the for- mer headquarters for Lukens Steel Company, which is now

listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In re City of Coatesville v. Huston Props., No. 115 C.D. 2016 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Feb. 16, 2017). Yet another looming issue for non-profits is the business privilege tax. Not every ju- risdiction imposes a business privilege tax, but some that do tend to be very aggressive in pursuing the tax from non- profits. For example, corporate non-profits often operate major health networks. Recently, the City of Allentown has chal- lenged the tax-exempt status of medical non-profits which conduct activities that would traditionally be taxable, such as hospital fitness centers and in-house pharmacies. So, is a tax exemption ever safe from challenge? It appears not. Institutions with chari- table purposes will continue to face questions as to the require- ments of purely public charity status. These non-profits will be forced to expend important resources for litigation, that would otherwise be devoted to support their charitable endeavors. As some cities, suburban municipalities and school dis- tricts face rising costs and potentially significant budget deficits, officials will continue to be aggressive, and at times too creative, in compelling businesses to part with more of their revenue. My prediction for this year, next year, and perhaps beyond, is that tax litigation will continue to be a high stakes game of cat and mouse. The courts will decide who gets the last slice of cheese. Neil Andrew Stein, Es- quire, Kaplin Stewart Mel- off Reiter & Stein, P.C. 

for municipalities and school districts. Although the Penn- sylvania Supreme Court took a scalpel to the reverse appeal process in Valley Forge Towers, et al v. Upper Merion School District and Keystone Realty Advisors, No. 49 MAP 2016 (Pa. July 5, 2017), many judges appear reluctant to side with taxpayers. In addition, school districts have now trotted out formulas and schemes that are allegedly non-discriminatory. This subject will continue to be fertile ground for litigation. Yet another taxing issue per- tains principally to non-profits and those entities which count

serious bur- den on every type of prop- erty, includ- ing income- p r o d u c i n g p r o p e r t i e s such as shop- ping centers, apartment

Neil Andrew Stein

complexes, and office build- ings. The burden has become even greater due to the “re- verse” assessment appeals that have become a popular income generating strategy

Firmly Rooted in the Law and in the Community

Other Offices: Cherry Hill, NJ 856-675-1550 • Philadelphia, PA 215-567-3120 Kaplin Stewart At torneys at Law We are well grounded in every facet of real estate law, from acquisition to construction. We are committed to serving the needs of our clients and our communities.

Mid-Year Review

a section of the MARE Journal Phone: 781-740-2900 Fax: 781-740-2929

www.marejournal.com S ection P ublishers Linda Christman lchristman@marejournal.com Kimberly Brunet kbrunet@marejournal.com S ection E ditor Karen Vachon editor@marejournal.com

Contact: NEIL A. STEIN • nstein@kaplaw.com 910 Harvest Drive, Blue Bell, PA 19422-0765 610-941-2469 • kaplaw.com

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