Township of Cheltenham, PA
Montgomery County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[Adopted 12-15-1998 by Ord. No. 1928-98]
This article shall be known and may be cited as the "Cheltenham Township Local Taxpayer Bill of Rights." This Local Taxpayer Bill of Rights applies with respect to any taxes imposed by the Township pursuant to the Local Tax Enabling Act[1] and/or all per capita taxes; all occupation, occupation assessment or occupational privilege taxes; income taxes; gross receipts taxes; privilege taxes, amusement or admissions taxes; and earned income and net profits taxes.
[1]
Editor's Note: See 53 P.S. § 6901 et seq.
A. 
Township requests for information.
(1) 
The Township, its Auditor, its Solicitor or other designated representative is authorized to examine the books and records of any taxpayer in order to verify the accuracy of any return made or, if no return was made, to ascertain whether the tax should be imposed and, if so, the amount of the tax due.
(2) 
The Township may request information from a taxpayer concerning the taxpayer's compliance with the Township Tax Code. Books, journals, invoices, documents and other accounting records utilized by the taxpayer in the ordinary course of business must be kept in a manner which will reflect actual business operations. There must be objective criteria in these books and records, as well as in underlying documents, such as invoices, to support the returns filed by the taxpayer. A taxpayer claiming an exemption or exclusion for any portion of gross receipts or other taxes must maintain complete records which will support the validity of such claims. Such claims will be disallowed if not sufficiently proven by the taxpayer.
(3) 
Except as otherwise provided herein, an initial inquiry by the Township for information regarding the taxpayer's compliance with the Township Tax Code may include taxes required to be paid or tax returns required to be filed no more than three years prior to the mailing date of the inquiry notice.
(4) 
However, the Township may make a subsequent request for tax returns or supporting information if, after the initial request, the Township determines that the taxpayer has failed to file a tax return, has underreported income or receipts or has failed to pay a tax for one or more of the tax periods covered by the initial request.
(5) 
In the event that the Township has sufficient information to indicate that the taxpayer has failed to file a required return or to pay a tax which was due more than three years prior to the date of the notice, the three-year limitation shall not apply and the Township may request information for any such tax years.
(6) 
The Township may require any taxpayer to provide copies of the taxpayer's federal income tax return. The Township shall require individuals to provide federal tax returns only where the federal tax information is reasonably necessary for the enforcement or collection of an eligible tax and the information is not available from other sources or the Department of Revenue.
(7) 
Any information obtained by the Township as a result of any audit return, report, investigation, hearing or verification shall be confidential tax information, except as provided by law. However, the information on any license application shall be a public record.
B. 
Taxpayer response.
(1) 
Thirty days to respond. When the Township makes an initial request for information from the taxpayer, the taxpayer shall have at least 30 calendar days from the mailing date of the request, to respond.
(2) 
Extensions. Upon written application by the taxpayer, submitted to the Township (or its Auditor, if the request for information is from the Auditor) within the initial thirty-day period and where good cause for an extension exists, the Township shall grant an extension of time to respond for a reasonable amount of time.
(3) 
No action by the Township within the response period. The Township shall take no lawful action against a taxpayer for the tax year in question until the expiration of the response period.
(4) 
The books, journals, invoices and other accounting records of the taxpayer as used in its ordinary course of business must be kept in a manner which will reflect actual business operations of the taxpayer. The books and records of the taxpayer must contain objective criteria to support the returns filed by the taxpayer. A taxpayer claiming an exemption or exclusion for any portion of gross receipts or other taxes must maintain complete records which will support the validity of such claims. Such claims will be disallowed if not sufficiently proven by the taxpayer.
(5) 
The taxpayer is required, at its cost, to make all records available to the Township to support the returns which were filed or should have been filed by the taxpayer. If the taxpayer does not have records for the entire period requested for review, the Township may utilize whatever information or records are available to reconstruct, as accurately as possible, the figures that reflect the business activity of the taxpayer for the period involved.
C. 
Audit. The Township has the right to have a designated representative audit any tax return to verify its accuracy and to assess or reassess the amount of tax due. In the event that a taxpayer has failed to file a required return, the Township has the right to have its auditor examine the books and records of the company, or such other information as is available, to determine and assess the amount of tax due.
D. 
Notice of basis of underpayment.
(1) 
The Township will notify the taxpayer in writing of the basis for any underpayment that the Township has determined to exist, including:
(a) 
The tax period(s) for which the underpayment is asserted;
(b) 
The amount of the underpayment, detailed by tax period;
(c) 
The legal basis upon which the Township has relied to determine that an underpayment exists; and
(d) 
An itemization of the revisions made by the Township to a return or report filed by the taxpayer that results in the determination that an underpayment exists.
(2) 
Unless otherwise specified by the taxpayer, the Township shall apply all voluntary payments of taxes first to taxes owed, then to interest, then to penalty; and then to any other fees and charges.
E. 
Abatement of certain interest and penalties.
(1) 
Errors and delays. In the case of an underpayment, where the Township has contacted the taxpayer in writing with respect to the underpayment of tax finally determined to be due or payable, the Township may abate all or any part of interest for any period, if the underpayment is attributable, in whole or in part, to any error or delay by the Township in the performance of a ministerial act; provided, that no significant aspect of the error or delay is attributable to the taxpayer. The Township shall determine what constitutes timely performance of ministerial acts.
(2) 
Erroneous written advice by the Township. The Township is not required by law to provide written advice to taxpayers. However, the Township shall abate any portion of penalty or interest which is attributable to erroneous advice furnished to the taxpayer in writing by an officer, employee or agent of the Township acting in his or her official capacity in the following circumstances:
(a) 
The written advice was in response to a specific written request of the taxpayer; and
(b) 
The taxpayer reasonably relied upon the written advice; and
(c) 
The portion of the penalty or addition to tax or excess interest did not result from a failure by the taxpayer to provide adequate or accurate information.
F. 
Installment agreements. In order to facilitate collection, the Township, at its discretion, may enter into written agreements with any taxpayer under which the taxpayer is allowed to satisfy a tax liability in installment payments. The Township, at its election, may modify or terminate any installment agreement where:
(1) 
The taxpayer has provided inaccurate or incomplete information.
(2) 
The Township believes that collection of the tax under the agreement is in jeopardy.
(3) 
The Township finds that the financial condition of the taxpayer has significantly changed and has given 30 days' notice of the finding and reasons for the finding to the taxpayer.
(4) 
The taxpayer fails to pay any installment at the time due under the agreement.
(5) 
The taxpayer fails to pay any other tax liability at the time the liability is due.
(6) 
The taxpayer fails to provide a financial condition update as requested by the Township.
A. 
Requests for refunds. A taxpayer who has paid a tax to the Township may file a written request with the Township for refund or credit of the tax.
(1) 
Except as otherwise provided herein, all refund requests must be made within three years of the due date for filing the return or report, as extended, or one year after actual payment of the tax, whichever is later.
(2) 
For amounts paid as a result of a notice asserting or informing a taxpayer of an underpayment, a written request for refund must be filed with the Township within one year of the date of payment.
(3) 
If no report or return is required, the refund request must be made within three years after the due date for payment of the tax or within one year after actual payment of the tax, whichever is later.
(4) 
For purposes of this section, a tax return filed by the taxpayer with the Township which shows an overpayment of tax shall be deemed to be a written request for a cash refund if the taxpayer provides all necessary documentation to support the taxpayer's right to refund. If the taxpayer indicates on the return that the taxpayer desires the overpayment to be applied as a credit toward other taxes, the return showing the overpayment shall not be deemed a written request for cash refund.
(5) 
A request for refund under this section is not considered a petition for administrative appeal, as described in § 270-75 hereof, and shall not preclude a taxpayer from submitting a petition under § 270-75 hereof.
B. 
Interest on overpayment. All overpayments of a tax due to the Township, including taxes on real property, shall bear simple interest from the date of overpayment until the date of resolution.
(1) 
Interest rate. Interest on overpayments shall be allowed and paid at the same rate as the commonwealth is required to pay pursuant to Section 806.1 of the Act known as the "Fiscal Code."[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: See 72 P.S. § 806.1.
(2) 
Exceptions. No interest shall be allowed if an overpayment is refunded or applied against any other tax, interest or penalty due to the Township within 75 days after the last date prescribed for filing the report of the tax liability, or within 75 days after the date the return or report of the liability due is filed, whichever is later.
(3) 
Overpayments of interest or penalty. Overpayments of interest or penalty shall not bear any interest.
(4) 
Acceptance of refund. Tender of a refund check by the Township shall be deemed to be acceptance of the check by the taxpayer for purposes of this section. The taxpayer's acceptance of the Township's check shall not prejudice any right of the taxpayer to claim any additional overpayment and interest thereon. "Date of overpayment" and "date of resolution" shall be defined in accordance with Pennsylvania Act 50-1998.[2]
[2]
Editor's Note: See 53 Pa. C.S.A. § 8421 et seq.
C. 
Taxpayer complaints. All taxpayer complaints shall be directed to the Finance Officer at the Township Office.
A. 
Petitions. A taxpayer may file a petition for review of assessment determination or refund to the Hearing Officer for the earned income and net profits tax, appointed by the Township; and with the Township Board of Commissioner for the mercantile license tax, business privilege tax, and the real estate transfer tax.
(1) 
A petition is timely filed if the letter transmitting the petition is postmarked by the United States Postal Service on or before the final day on which the petition is required to be filed.
(2) 
A petition for refund must be filed within three years after the due date for filing the report or return, as extended, or within one year after actual payment of the tax, whichever is later. If no report or return is required, the petition shall be filed within three years after the due date for payment of the tax or within one year after actual payment, whichever is later.
(3) 
A petition for reassessment of a tax shall be filed within 90 days of the date of the assessment notice or notice of underpayment.
(4) 
The Hearing Officer or the Board of Commissioners, as appropriate, shall deny all petitions not timely filed.
(5) 
All petitions must be submitted on the Petition Form provided by the Township, or by the Hearing Officer. A copy of the Petition Form is attached to this Local Taxpayer Bill of Rights.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: The Petition Forms are on file in the Township offices and may be examined there during regular office hours.
(6) 
Requests for review of assessment determination or refund which are not submitted on the designated form are null and void, and neither the Hearing Officer, Board of Commissioners nor the Township, are required to respond to them.
(7) 
Earned income and net profits tax. The Hearing Officer shall hold a hearing on the petition upon notice to the Township and the taxpayer by telephone or mail. The Hearing Officer may make his/her decision at the completion of the hearing, or may take the matter under advisement. The Hearing Officer shall render his/her decision in writing to the Township and to the taxpayer within 60 days of the date of actual receipt of the complete and accurate petition by the Hearing Officer. Failure of the Hearing Officer to render a decision within 60 days shall result in the petition being deemed approved. Testimony before the Hearing Officer shall be under oath, but is not required to be recorded. The Hearing Officer is authorized to administer any required oath.
(8) 
Mercantile license tax, business privilege tax, and the real estate transfer tax. The Board of Commissioners will consider the petition in an executive session. The Board shall render its decision in writing to the taxpayer within 60 days of the date of actual receipt of the complete and accurate petition by the Township. Failure of the Township to render a decision within 60 days shall result in the petition being deemed approved. In its discretion, the Board may require testimony, which shall be under oath, but is not required to be recorded.
(9) 
The Hearing Officer or the Board of Commissioners, as appropriate, shall determine the petition according to the Cheltenham Township Tax Code, rules, regulations and the principles of Pennsylvania law and equity. The decision of the Hearing Officer or the Board of Commissioners, as appropriate, shall be timely made if notice of the decision is mailed to the taxpayer, postmarked no later than 60 days after the date of actual receipt of the complete and accurate petition by the Hearing Officer or the Board of Commissioners, as appropriate.
(10) 
If the petitioner fails to appear at the hearing, despite notice of the hearing having been given by the Hearing Officer, the Hearing Officer shall find in favor of the Township.
(11) 
Any person aggrieved by a decision of the Hearing Officer or the Board of Commissioners, as appropriate, who has a direct interest in the decision, shall have the right to appeal to the Court of Common Pleas and there shall receive a hearing de novo.
A. 
The Township, its designee or the Township Solicitor has the power to collect unpaid taxes, interest and penalties in the name of the Township from the persons owing such amounts, by institution of a civil action, by imposition of a municipal lien or by any other appropriate remedy.
B. 
The Township, its designee or the Township Solicitor has the power to file a criminal summary offense citation in the District Court having jurisdiction, for violation of any Township tax ordinance. The Tax Code provides for fines in the amount of $600 for each offense of the mercantile license tax, real estate transfer tax and the business privilege tax, and $500 for each offense of the earned income net profits tax.
C. 
In all legal actions, the Township has the power to demand costs and attorneys' fees from the taxpayer.