Amtrak has filed a federal complaint against the City of Philadelphia over allegations that
the city’s revenue department decided to start collecting city wage taxes from Amtrak police officers who work at 30th Street Station despite a federal law that exempts the railroad operator from state and local taxes.
The civil action, filed July 30 at the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia by attorney Yuri J. Brunetti, of the firm Landman Corsi Ballaine & Ford, claims that the Philadelphia Department of Revenue decided to disallow for 2007 to 2009 the federal exemption from the city wage tax afforded to Amtrak employees.
The city made its decision on Feb. 14 of last year, and on Feb. 28, Amtrak’s Law Department informed the city that the police personnel in question were exempt from said tax.
Amtrak, officially known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp., has a statutory immunity from the imposition of taxes and other charges by state and local governments, the suit claims, something that has been reaffirmed by federal district courts and appeals courts during the course of the last two-plus decades.
The lawsuit states that many of the police personnel who work at 30th Street Station in downtown Philadelphia completed a special tax exemption form certifying that they perform regular assigned duties in multiple states and are therefore exempt from state and local taxes other than those imposed by the city of their residence.
Nevertheless, the lawsuit claims, the city still sought to collect wage taxes from many of those police officers for that 2007-2009 time period.
The complaint states that the city never responded to the letter from Amtrak attorneys, but instead sent Amtrak an assessment bill on March 16, 2011, that assessed Amtrak $268,884.99 in taxes, $60,271.81 in interest and $110,708.78 in penalties.
Interest and penalties have accrued since that date, the suit claims.
Amtrak filed a protective petition with the city’s Tax Review Board in mid April of last year contesting the assessment bill; that petition is still pending.
On June 28 of this year, Amtrak’s counsel wrote to the city’s Solicitor’s Office again advising the city of the special tax exemption, and requesting a meeting to discuss the issue.
The city never responded to the letter, the lawsuit claims, with the city’s tax review board instead advised Amtrak that it would conduct a hearing on the petition on Aug. 9 of this year.
The complaint seeks declaratory judgment that the city violated the federal exemption law.
Amtrak also seeks injunctive relief enjoining the city from assessing or collecting from Amtrak the wage taxes, interest and penalties in question.
The federal case number is 2:12-cv-04319-JCJ.