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CPBJ Extra Blog

Raising business confidence in tax appeals

By ,
Jason Scott
Jason Scott

It was part of the tax reform code in this year's state budget, but one that many in business might have overlooked as another benefit.

Yes, I'm talking about House Bill 1541, which was amended into HB 465. That piece of the tax code changes the makeup of the Board of Finance and Revenue.

The BF&R hears and decides appeals involving business and personal tax matters. It is generally the second level of appeal, following decisions by the Department of Revenue's Board of Appeals.

So what changed?

The law change makes the board more independent of state taxing authorities by taking it from six to three members — two appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, plus the state treasurer. The two appointees will be full time and will serve six-year terms.

An appointed board member must be either a certified public accountant or lawyer and have at least 10 years of experience with state tax law.

The board had included the secretary of revenue along with the auditor general, attorney general, secretary of the commonwealth and the governor's general counsel. The presence of the revenue secretary was an essential flaw, Treasurer Rob McCord's office said, given the fact it placed that official in the position of helping to decide appeals of department actions while serving alongside other administrative officials.

Sound good so far? Wait, there's a bit more.

The law also now requires that the board publish its opinions, which will increase transparency, said Gary Tuma , a spokesman for McCord.

"It should give the taxpayer, whether that's an individual or a business, greater confidence that the appeal is going to be heard impartially rather than by a board representing the authorities," he said.

Published decisions will help companies as they weigh financial decisions, he said.

Having greater access to this board's rationale for its decisions is a big win for business and directions they might pursue moving forward. The board also has the power to settle cases upon mutual agreement of the department and the taxpayer, which it had lacked.

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants were among those pushing for the legislation.

What do you think of this change? Will it help your company make better financial decisions? Did you even know this was part of the tax code bill this budget season?

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at You can also follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal.

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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