Can Business Privilege Taxes Paid Erroneously Be Refunded to Taxpayers by Filing a Class Action Complaint ?
In Aronson v. City of Pittsburgh, 98 Pa. Commw. 1, 510 A.2d 871 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1986), the Court applied this principle and affirmed the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County's denial of class certification to taxpayers owed a refund of business privilege taxes erroneously paid.
There, after this Court set aside the assessment of business privilege taxes on fees Mark Aronson (Aronson) received as a director of various corporations, Aronson filed a class action complaint seeking, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, to recover the business privilege taxes paid.
Sections 1 and 2 of the Act of May 21, 1943, P.L., as amended, 72 P.S. 5566b and 5566c, provided the exclusive procedure for a taxpayer who pays a local occupation tax, later found to be void.
Specifically, 72 P.S 5566c provided that a person claiming a refund must file a petition within two years from the date the tax was paid.
72 P.S 5566c provided that in the event a refund was denied, the person aggrieved had the right to bring suit in the court of common pleas.
There we noted "where the Legislature has provided a specific statutory remedy, a class action may not be used to provide a different remedy." Aronson, 510 A.2d at 873.
Any class member who had not complied with the procedures set forth in 72 P.S. 5566b and 5566c was not entitled to a refund.
This Court went on to note, "in any event," even if class members had requested a refund, they could not be members of the putative class.
This Court explained: the statute is clear that the Legislature has seen fit to give only the individual aggrieved the right to sue for a refund.
The right is personal and may not be transferred to another by way of a class action." Aronson, 510 A.2d at 873.