Court Affirms Decision in Commercial Reassessment Challenge Against the City of Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (July 29, 2021) — Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg LLP is pleased to announce that a team of attorneys that included Glenn Weiner and Larry Arem have secured another favorable decision, this time upon appeal, in the matter of the city’s 2018 commercial only reassessments (Duffield House Associates LP et al. v. City of Philadelphia et al.).

The Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial decision that these assessments were unconstitutional and that the proper remedy was to order tax refunds based upon 2017 values.

The case is one of the largest tax assessment challenges in the city’s history. It hinged on whether the City of Philadelphia unconstitutionally reassessed commercial properties in 2018 and whether the approximately 700 taxpayers who challenged the city’s reassessments should be refunded as much as $63 million, plus interest. In 2019, Judge Cohen found that the selective reassessment of the plaintiffs’ properties violated the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Pennsylvania statutes and the Philadelphia Code and ordered the defendants to refund to the taxpayers the excess taxes they were assessed, with interest. The refunds were payable by July 2021.

Weiner argued for the taxpayers before the Commonwealth Court. “We are happy that the appeals court agreed the city’s actions were improper and the taxpayers are entitled to refunds of improperly assessed tax,” said Weiner, a partner in the litigation department at Klehr Harrison. “We hope that the city stops trying to defend this unconstitutional reassessment and drops the argument that it should not have to refund improper taxes.”

“This is a reminder that the city needs to turn square corners,” said Arem, Chair of Klehr Harrison’s tax practice.

While Weiner led the litigation effort, lawyers for the taxpayers cooperated in this action contributing to the favorable outcome. Additional law firms representing the property owners include Blank Rome, Chamberlain Hrdlicka White Williams & Aughtry, Duane Morris, Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippell LLP, Dean E. Weisgold PC, Karalis PC, Fellheimer & Eichen LLP, and Capozzi Adler PC.

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