As part of his executive budget, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has proposed an initiative to create an independent tax tribunal that would replace the Commonwealth’s Board of Finance and Revenue. Many in the business community believe such a change will provide quicker resolution of tax appeals and more transparency. More than half of the other states currently have an independent tax tribunal either within the administrative or judicial branches of government.
The current appeals process for seeking resolution through the Board of Appeals, the Board of Finance and Revenue and then Commonwealth Court can take several years. And taxpayers have long questioned the fairness of having the Board of Finance and Revenue as part of the appeals process since the governor controls three of the seats (Office of General Counsel, Department of State and the Department of Revenue). The Attorney General, the State Treasurer and the Auditor General occupy the remaining three seats.
Under the current proposal, the Board of Finance and Revenue would be replaced by a three-member body. Two members would be appointed by the governor with Senate confirmation and have a substantial knowledge of state tax matters. Their terms would be limited to six years each. The State Treasurer (or his designee) would be the third member and serve as the chairman. The current proposal additionally seeks to:
• Include taxpayers and the Department of Revenue as participants;
• Publish all decisions (including dissents);
• Allow for redaction of confidential taxpayer information; and
• Authorize compromises.
Many believe that implementation of an independent tax tribunal would improve efficiency and fairness of the entire appeals process in the Commonwealth.
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