Difference Between Real Estate Taxes and Other Municipal Claims
In Trigona v. Lender, 926 A.2d 1226 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2007) the Supreme Court recently explained the difference between real estate taxes and other municipal claims:
Historically, the legislature divided taxes into two categories: general and special taxes.
General taxes were levied by a municipality to pay for its expenses, compelling all citizens and property within its limits to contribute. ... Special taxes, on the hand, were levied by a municipality on certain properties to pay for improvements that only enhances the value of the specially taxed property.
Today, the General Assembly continues to differentiate between the legal claims arising from these two types of assessments, calling claims arising from unpaid general taxes as "tax claims" and claims arising from unpaid special taxes as "municipal claims".
Specifically, Section 1 of the Municipal Claims Act defines a "tax claim" as a "claim filed to recover taxes." 53 P.S. 7101.
Meanwhile, "municipal claim" is defined as a claim arising out of or resulting from a tax assessed by a municipality to recover for a taxpayer's benefits from local improvements, services supplied, work done, or improvements authorized and undertaken by the municipality....
Thus, the Municipal Claims Act makes an explicit distinction between tax claims filed as a result of unpaid general taxes, ... and municipal claims filed as a result of unpaid special taxes.
This distinction is further observed in the statutory collection methods authorized by the Municipal Claims Act and the Third Class City Code.
Section 1 of the Municipal Claims Act, Act of March 21, 1945, P.L. 47, as amended, 53 P.S. 7102, sets local taxes as first liens on real property when assessed by the proper authority.
Similarly, Section 3 of the Municipal Claims Act, 53 P.S. 7106, provides all municipal claims are liens on the improved property when assessed.
In accord with these provisions, Sections 9 through 11, 53 P.S. 7143 - 45, set forth the time, place and manner of filing of claims.
Consistent with the Municipal Claims Act, the Third Class City Code requires the city treasurer to schedule uncollected taxes for the purpose of lien or sale. Sections 2537 and 2541 of the Third Class City Code, 53 P.S. 37537 and 37541.
A third class city derives its municipal claims collection authority from the Third Class City Code.
In particular, Section 3302 of the Third Class City Code, 53 P.S. 38302 authorizes assessment collection in the same manner as the collection of municipal claims.
Municipal claims collection is governed by Section 4601 of the Third Class City Code, 53 P.S. 39601.
In addition to the filing of liens, Section 4601 authorizes third class cities to proceed in assumpsit against the appropriate property owner.
The Third Class City Code is consistent with Section 1 of the Municipal Claims Act, which authorizes other municipal corporations to pursue actions in assumpsit in addition to filing liens for the collection of municipal claims. 53 P.S. 7251.
The above statutory provisions provide an exclusive framework for the collection of real property taxes and municipal claims by third class cities.
Municipal claims are creatures of statute; and any right to enforce collection is also statutory. Trigona, 926 A.2d at 1234-1235