Pro-taxpayer bill moves through PA Senate, would help with disputes with Department of Revenue

06 June 2024- Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity applauded the Senate for its bipartisan approval of Senate Bill 1051 yesterday, pro-taxpayer legislation sponsored by Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-21) to streamline and improve the process of resolving tax disputes with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue (DOR).

SB 1051 will allow the Board of Finance and Revenue (BF&R) to accept late-filed applications in certain circumstances and to create a new independent, mediated settlement process for taxpayers as an alternative to the formal and lengthy court appeals process.

“The current tax appeal process tends to be bureaucratic, cumbersome and inflexible. It’s a huge burden on too many individuals and businesses with legitimate tax appeals – we need to improve this process. Sen. Hutchinson’s legislation will create an even playing field for Pennsylvania taxpayers, and it will help tax issues get resolved more quickly. I applaud the Senate for approving this commonsense, taxpayer-friendly legislation.”
 Pennsylvania State Treasurer Stacy Garrity

“My colleagues and I have found that, sometimes, the Department of Revenue can get a little overzealous when interpreting applicable tax law. Senate Bill 1051 gives taxpayers a little more time and some options when responding to assessments by the Department, while also benefiting our Commonwealth by resolving tax issues sooner and allowing tax liabilities to be collected more quickly. Plain and simple, SB 1051 is a taxpayer protection proposal that makes a complicated system clearer, simpler and taxpayer-friendly – it’s a win-win for all parties.”
 Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-21)

SB 1051 is supported by numerous organizations, including the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the NFIB, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA), and the Pennsylvania Society of Enrolled Agents. A companion bill, House Bill 1994, was introduced by Rep. Tim Briggs (D-29).

Currently, taxpayers who disagree with a final decision made by DOR have a 60-day deadline to appeal the decision to BF&R. That often leads to cases being dismissed on a technicality rather than being decided on their merits. SB 1051 will allow BF&R to accept late-filed applications if good cause is shown by the taxpayer and neither party would be prejudiced.

The bill also empowers BF&R to create an independent settlement process, which will allow more tax disputes to be resolved without a final Board decision – thus reducing litigation costs for taxpayers. Under current law, BF&R has no authority to direct a mediated settlement process. Treasury estimates that up to 500 cases annually could be resolved under this process.

BF&R receives approximately 4,200 appeals annually. The Board must resolve each appeal within six months of its filing, absent an extension request; otherwise, the underlying DOR decision is upheld. Currently, only about 13 percent of eligible appeals are resolved through settlement prior to an appeal before the Commonwealth Court.

BF&R is an independent administrative tax tribunal, administered by the State Treasurer, responsible for the second and final level of administrative appeal (with minor exceptions) before appealing to court. The Board consists of three members – two are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Pennsylvania Senate; the third is the State Treasurer or her designee and serves as Chair.