Effective January 1, 2011, an applicant intending to file a petition of appeal requesting zoning relief from the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment must first obtain a tax clearance certificate from a new Philadelphia Revenue Department Web site launched earlier this week.

In June 2010, Philadelphia City Council passed Bill No. 090852-AA (the Ordinance), which prohibits the Zoning Board from granting variance, special exception, certificate, special use permit, or temporary use certificate relief without first verifying that the applicant’s City taxes are current, including real estate taxes on the subject property.

If the applicant for relief is the owner, they must establish that all City taxes are current, including but not limited to, real estate taxes, business privilege tax, net profits tax, use and occupancy tax, regardless of whether the tax liability relates to the property in question. If a tenant, the applicant must show that the tenant’s City taxes and real estate taxes for the property are current. Past due taxes that are the subject of a valid payment agreement with the City will not preclude zoning relief.

To obtain a tax clearance certificate an owner or a tenant must go to https://secure.phila.gov/revenue/TaxCompliance and submit the address of the property in question and the legal name and federal tax identification number for the owner and/or applicant. If the City’s records show that there are delinquent taxes, the applicant must contact the City Revenue Department, as the Web site will not inform the applicant which taxes are delinquent.

Petitions of appeal to the Zoning Board must be filed within 30 days of the issuance of City Department of Licenses and Inspections’ (L&I) notice of refusal or referral. Therefore, to decrease the chances that an applicant will miss the deadline for filing its petition of appeal with the Zoning Board, the applicant should consider obtaining the tax clearance certificate before filing a zoning application with L&I.

A few exceptions to the ordinance permit an applicant to proceed with a petition of appeal requesting zoning relief where applicable taxes are delinquent. Of note is the exception for the applicant who is an equitable owner of a property pursuant to an agreement of sale that is contingent upon obtaining zoning relief. In that case, the Zoning Board may conditionally approve zoning relief subject to the applicant's obtaining and delivering the tax clearance certificate to L&I at a later date.

If you have any questions about the Ordinance and the Zoning Board’s tax clearance certificate filing requirements, please contact Matthew N. McClure, 215.864.8771, mcclure@ballardspahr.com; or Wendi L. Kotzen, 215.864.8305, kotzenw@ballardspahr.com.


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