In this tax assessment appeal out of Alleghany County, the Commonwealth Court was asked to weigh in on the level of due diligence a party must show to warrant a nunc pro tunc appeal well after the appeal deadline has passed.
William Croft (Taxpayer) purchased a home in 1999. The deed stated that the property included two tax parcels (No. 88 and No. 89). Taxpayer recorded the deed, but when the deed was processed only No. 89 was transferred to Taxpayer’s name. No. 88 remained in the previous owner’s name. Taxpayer diligently paid taxes on No. 89, but the taxes on No. 88 went unpaid and tax liens were placed on the property by various Taxing Authorities. When a judgment was filed against the prior owner for unpaid taxes on No. 88 in 2006, the Sheriff was unable to perfect service as the address on file did not exist. Taxpayer only became aware of the situation in May 2013 after a conversation with a neighbor who told him the property included two tax parcels and there were outstanding tax liens on No. 88. Taxpayer then attempted to combine the parcels but was told that this could not be done while there were outstanding taxes owed on No. 88. Taxpayer attempted to file a nunc pro tunc appeal of the assessment for No. 88 in October 2013, citing an administrative breakdown, and was finally granted a hearing in April 2014.
The Board of Property Assessment denied Taxpayer’s request and Taxpayer appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Alleghany County, which held a hearing on the matter. At the hearing the Taxing Authorities stipulated that an administrative breakdown had occurred, but the court still affirmed the Board’s denial. It found Taxpayer was charged with knowledge of the two parcels when he received the deed and that even if he was not on notice, he had not acted with due diligence once he discovered the problem because he had waited nearly a year to seek a nunc pro tunc appeal of the assessment. Taxpayer appealed.
On appeal, the Commonwealth Court reversed and remanded. It found Taxpayer had exercised reasonable diligence in correcting the problem and that the Taxing Authorities’ arguments to the contrary were undercut by their own failure to untangle the situation for more than 13 years, despite having superior knowledge of the problem. The court emphasized that time is not the only factor to consider when evaluating whether a petitioner has exercised due diligence in filing a nunc pro tunc appeal. Finding the Applicant had diligently pursued the matter since initially learning of the problem, the Court remanded to the Board to allow a nunc pro tunc appeal.