By Ted Friedman and Pilar Mata
The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records (OOR) determined that the City of Philadelphia Department of Revenue (City) was not required to provide use and occupancy tax forms and documentation in the City’s possession relating to alleged unpaid use and occupancy taxes in response to a company’s request under Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law (RTKL). The OOR denied the request on the grounds that the records constituted confidential tax information protected by the Local Tax Enabling Act (LTEA) and the Local Taxpayers Bill of Rights Act (LTBRA). The OOR stated that the objective of the RTKL is to empower citizens by affording them access to information concerning the activities of their government, and that records in the possession of a local agency, such as the City, are presumed to be public, unless exempt under the RTKL or other law or protected by a privilege, a judicial order or a decree. The OOR held that the City had met its burden of proof to establish that the records constituted confidential tax information protected from public access under the LTEA and LTBRA. In response to the company’s argument that it was entitled to – at a minimum – copies of its own tax records, the OOR stated that the status of an individual requesting a record is irrelevant as to whether the record is accessible under the RTKL. Walsh v. City of Philadelphia, No. AP 2014-1216 (Pa. Office of Open Records Oct. 1, 2014).