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Realty Transfer Tax
335.04 Imposition of Tax; Interest
335.05 Exempt Parties
335.06 Excluded Transactions
335.07 Documents Relating to Associations or Corporations and Members,
Partners, Stockholders or Shareholders Thereof
335.08 Acquired Company
335.09 Credits Against Tax
335.10 Extension of Lease
335.11 Proceeds of Judicial Sale
335.12 Duties of the Recorder of Deeds
335.13 Statement of Value
335.14 Civil Penalties
Registration of real estate - See ADM. Art. 119
Property tax - See BUS. REG. Art. 329
This ordinance shall be known as the "Realty Transfer Tax" of the City of Bethlehem.
A realty transfer tax for general revenue purposes is hereby imposed upon the transfer of real estate or interest in real estate situated within the City of Bethlehem, regardless of where the documents making the transfer are made, executed or delivered, or where the actual settlements on such transfer took place as authorized by Article XI-D, "Local Real Estate Transfer Tax," 72 P.S. §8101-d, et seq.
(A) “Association” shall mean a partnership, limited partnership, or any other form of unincorporated enterprise owned or conducted by two or more persons other than a private trust or decedent's estate.
(B) “Corporation” shall mean a corporation, joint-stock association, business trust, or banking institution which is organized under the laws of this Commonwealth, the United States, or any other state, territory, foreign country or dependency.
(C) “Document” shall mean any deed, instrument or writing which conveys, transfers, demises, vests, confirms or evidences any transfer or demise of title to real estate, but does not include wills, mortgages, deeds of trust or other instruments or like character given as security for a debt and deeds of release thereof to the debtor, land contracts whereby the legal title does not pass to the grantee until the total consideration specified in the contract has been paid or any cancellation thereof unless the consideration is payable over a period of time exceeding thirty (30) years, or instruments which solely grant, vest or confirm a public utility easement. This shall also include a declaration of acquisition required to be presented for recording under Section 335.08 of this article.
(D) “Family Farm Corporation” shall mean a corporation of which at least seventy-five (75%) percent of its assets are devoted to the business of agriculture and at least seventy-five (75%) percent of each class of stock of the corporation is continuously owned by members of the same family. The business or agriculture shall not be deemed to include:
(a) Recreational activities such as, but not limited to, hunting, fishing, camping, skiing, show competition or racing;
(b) The raising, breeding or training of game animals or game birds, fish, cats, dogs or pets or animals intended for use in sporting or recreational activities
(c) Fur farming;
(d) Stockyard and slaughterhouse operations;
(e) Manufacturing or processing operations of any kind.
(E) “Members of the same family” shall mean any individual, such individual's brothers and sisters, the brothers and sisters of such individual's parents and grandparents, the ancestors and lineal descendants of any of the foregoing, a spouse of any of the foregoing, and the estate of any of the foregoing. Individuals related by the half-blood or legal adoption shall be treated as if they were released by the whole-blood.
(F) “Person” shall mean every natural person, association, or corporation. Whenever used in any clause prescribing and imposing a fine or imprisonment, or both. The term "person" as applied to associations, shall include the responsible members or general partners thereof, and as applied to corporations, the officers thereof.
(G) “Real estate” shall mean:
(a) All lands, tenements or hereditaments within this City, including without limitation buildings, structures, fixtures, mines, minerals, oil, gas, quarries, spaces with or without upper or lower boundaries, trees, and other improvements, immovables or interests which by custom, usage or law pass with a conveyance of land, but excluding permanently attached machinery and equipment in an industrial plant.
(b) A condominium unit.
(c) A tenant-stockholder's interest in a cooperative housing corporation, trust or association under a proprietary lease or occupancy agreement.
(H) “Real estate company” shall mean a corporation or association which is primarily engaged in the business of holding, selling or leasing real estate, ninety (90%) percent or more of the ownership interest in which is held by thirty-five (35) or fewer persons and which:
(a) Derives sixty (60%) percent or more of its annual gross receipts from the ownership or disposition of real estate; or
(b) Holds real estate, the value of which comprises ninety (90%) percent or more of the value of its entire tangible asset holdings exclusive of tangible assets which are freely transferrable and actively traded on an established market.
(I) “Title to real estate” shall mean:
(a) Any interest in real estate which endures for a period of time, the termination of which is not fixed or ascertained by a specific number of years, including without limitation an estate in fee simple, life estate, or perpetual leasehold; or
(b) Any interest in real estate enduring for a fixed period of years but which, either by reason of the length of the term or the grant of a right to extend the term by renewal or otherwise, consists of a group of rights approximating those of an estate in fee simple, life estate or perpetual leasehold, including without limitation a leasehold interest or possessory interest under a lease or occupancy agreement for a term of thirty (30) years or more or a leasehold interest or possessory interest in real estate in which the lessee has equity.
(J) “Transaction” shall mean the making, executing, delivering, accepting, or presenting for recording of a document.
(K) “Value” shall mean:
(a) In the case of any bona fide sale of real estate at arm's length for actual monetary worth, the amount of the actual consideration therefore, paid or to be paid, including liens or other encumbrances thereon existing before the transfer and not removed thereby, whether or not the underlying indebtedness is assumed, and ground rents, or a commensurate part thereof where such liens or other encumbrances and ground rents also encumber or are charged against other real estate: Provided, that where such documents shall set forth a nominal consideration, the "value" thereof shall be determined from the price set forth in or actual consideration for the contract of sale;
(b) In the case of a gift, sale by execution upon a judgment or upon the foreclosure of a mortgage by a judicial officer, transactions without consideration or for consideration less than the actual monetary worth of the real estate, a taxable lease, an occupancy agreement, a leasehold or possessory interest, any exchange of properties, or the real estate of an acquired company, the actual monetary worth of the real estate determined by adjusting the assessed value of real estate for local real estate tax purposes for the common level ratio factor developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for Pennsylvania realty transfer tax base calculations;
(c) In the case of an easement or other interest in real estate, the value of which is not determinable under clause (1) or (2), the actual monetary worth of such interest; or
(d) The actual consideration for or actual monetary worth of any executory agreement for the construction of buildings, structures or other permanent improvements to real estate between the grantor and other persons existing before the transfer and not removed thereby or between the grantor, the agent or principle of the grantor of a related corporation, association or partnership and the grantee existing before or effective with the transfer.
(A) Every person who makes, executes, delivers, accepts presents for recording any document or in whose behalf any document is made, executed, delivered, accepted or presented for recording, shall be subject to pay for and in respect to the transaction or any part thereof, a tax at the rate of one (1%) percent of the value of the real estate represented by such document, which tax shall be payable at the earlier of the time the document is presented for recording or within thirty (30) days of acceptance of such document or within thirty (30) days of becoming an acquired company.
(B) The payment of the tax imposed herein shall be evidence by the affixing of an official stamp or writing by the Recorder of Deeds of Lehigh County or Northampton County, respectively, whereon the date of the payment of the tax, amount of the tax and the signature of the collecting agent shall be set forth.
(C) It is the intent of this ordinance that the entire burden of the tax imposed herein on a person or transfer shall not exceed the limitations prescribed in The Local Tax Enabling Act, Act of December 31, 1965, P.L. 1257, 53 P.S. §6901 et seq., so that if any other political subdivision shall impose or hereafter shall impose such tax on the same person or transfer then the tax levied by the City under the authority of that Act shall during the time such duplication of the tax exists, except as hereinafter otherwise provided, be one-half (½) of the rate and such one-half (½) rate shall become effective without any action on the part of the City provided, however, that the City and any other political subdivision which impose such tax on the same person or transfer may agree that, instead of limiting their respective rates to one-half (½) of the rate herein provided, they will impose respectively different rates, the total of which shall not exceed the maximum rate permitted under "The Local Tax Enabling Act."
(D) Where lands lying partly within the boundaries of the City and partly without such boundaries are transferred, the tax herein imposed shall be calculated upon such portion of the value as shall be represented by the portion of such lands lying within the boundaries of the City, such apportionment of value to be evidenced by the affidavit or certificate of value hereinafter provided for, but shall in no event be less than the highest assessed valuation for local tax purposes placed upon the same in the assessment of property within the City.
(E) If for any reason the tax is not paid when due, interest at the rate in effect at the time the tax is due, shall be added and collected.
The United States, the Commonwealth, or any of their instrumentalities, agencies or political subdivisions shall be exempt from payment of the tax imposed by this article. The exemption of such governmental bodies shall not, however, relieve any other party to a transaction from liability for the tax.
The tax imposed by Section 335.04 shall not be imposed upon:
(A) A transfer to the Commonwealth, or to any of its instrumentalities, agencies or political subdivisions, by gift, dedication or deed in lieu of condemnation or deed of confirmation in connection with condemnation proceedings, or a reconveyance by the condemning body of the property condemned to the owner of record at the time of condemnation which reconveyance may include property fine adjustments provided said reconveyance is made within one (1) year from the date of condemnation.
(B) A document which the City is prohibited from taxing under the Constitution or statutes of the United States.
(C) A conveyance to a municipality, township, school district or county pursuant to acquisition by the municipality, township, school district or county of a tax delinquent property at sheriff sale or tax claim bureau sale.
(D) A transfer for no or nominal actual consideration which corrects or confirms a transfer previously recorded, but which does not extend or limit existing record legal title or interest.
(E) A transfer of division in kind for no or nominal actual consideration of property passed by testate or intestate succession and held by cotenants; however, if any of the parties take shares greater in value than their undivided interest, tax is due on the excess.
(F) A transfer between husband and wife, between persons who were previously husband and wife who have since been divorced, provided the property or interest therein subject to such transfer was acquired by the husband and wife or husband or wife prior to the granting of the final decree in divorce, between parent and child or the spouse of a brother or sister and brother or sister or the spouse of a brother or sister, and between a grandparent and grandchild or the spouse of such grandchild, except that a subsequent transfer by the grantee within one (1) year shall be subject to tax as if the grantor were making such transfer.
(G) A transfer for no or nominal actual consideration of property passing by testate or intestate succession from a personal representative of a decedent to the decedent's devisee or heir.
(H) A transfer for no or nominal actual consideration to a trustee of an ordinary trust where the transfer of the same property would be exempt if the transfer was made directly from the grantor to all of the possible beneficiaries, whether or not such beneficiaries are contingent or specifically named. No such exemption shall be granted unless the Recorder of Deeds is presented with a copy of the trust instrument that clearly identifies the grantor and all possible beneficiaries.
(I) A transfer for no or nominal actual consideration from a trustee to a beneficiary or an ordinary trust.
(J) A transfer for no or nominal actual consideration from trustee to successor trustee.
(K) A transfer (i) for no or nominal actual consideration between principal and agent or straw party; or (ii) from or to an agent or straw party where, if the agent or straw party were his principal, no tax would be imposed under this article. Where the document by which title is acquired by a grantee or statement of value fails to set forth that the property was acquired by the grantee from, or for the benefit of, his principal, there is a rebuttable presumption that the property is the property of the grantee in his individual capacity if the grantee claims an exemption from taxation under this clause.
(L) A transfer made pursuant to the statutory merger or consolidation of a corporation or statutory division of a nonprofit corporation, except where the department reasonably determines that the primary intent for such merger, consolidation or division is avoidance of the tax imposed by this article.
(M) A transfer from a corporation or association of real estate held of record in the name of the corporation or association where the grantee owns stock of the corporation or an interest in the association in the same proportion as his interest in or ownership of the real estate being conveyed and where the stock of the corporation or the interest in the association has been held by the grantee for more than two (2) years.
(N) A transfer from a nonprofit industrial development agency or authority to a grantee of property conveyed by the grantee to that agency or authority as security for a debt or the grantee or a transfer to a nonprofit industrial development agency or authority.
(O) A transfer from a nonprofit industrial development agency or authority to a grantee purchasing directly from it, but only if: (i) the grantee shall directly use such real estate for the primary purpose of manufacturing, fabricating, compounding, processing, publishing, research and development, transportation, energy conversion, energy production, pollution control, warehousing or agriculture; and (ii) the agency or authority has the full ownership interest in the real estate transferred.
(P) A transfer by a mortgagor to the holder of a bona fide mortgage in default in lieu of a foreclosure or a transfer pursuant to a judicial sale in which the successful bidder is the bona fide holder of a mortgage, unless the holder assigns the bid to another person.
(Q) Any transfer between religious organizations or other bodies or person holding title for a religious organization if such real estate is not being or has not been used by such transferor for commercial purposes.
(R) A transfer to a conservancy which possesses a tax exempt status pursuant to Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code of 1954, (68A Stat. 3, 26 U.S.C. §501(c)(3) and which has as its primary purpose preservation of land for historic, recreational, scenic, agricultural or open space opportunities.
(S) A transfer of real estate devoted to the business of agriculture to a family farm corporation by a member of the same family which directly owns at least seventy-five (75%) percent of each class of the stock thereof.
(T) A transfer between members of the same family of an ownership interest in a real estate company or family farm corporation.
(U) A transaction wherein the tax due is One ($1.00) Dollar or less.
(V) Leases for the production or extraction of coal, oil, natural gas or minerals and assignments thereof.
In order to exercise any exclusion provided in this section, the true, full and complete value of the transfer shall be shown on the statement of value. A copy of the Pennsylvania Realty Transfer Tax Statement of Value may be submitted for this purpose. For leases of coal, oil, natural gas or minerals, the statement of value may be limited to an explanation of the reason such document is not subject to tax under this ordinance.
Except as otherwise provided in Section 335.06, documents which make, confirm or evidence any transfer or demise of title to real estate between associations or corporations and the members, partners, shareholders or stockholders thereof are fully taxable. For the purpose of this article, corporations and associations are entities separate from their members, partners, stockholders or shareholders.
(A) A real estate company is an acquired company upon a change in the ownership interest in the company, however effected, if the change does not affect the continuity of the company; and of itself or together with prior changes has the effect of transferring, directly or indirectly, ninety (90%) percent or more of the total ownership interest in the company within a period of three (3) years.
(B) With respect to real estate acquired after February 16, 1986, a family farm corporation is an acquired company when, because of voluntary or involuntary dissolution, it ceases to be a family farm corporation or when, or because of issuance or transfer of stock or because of acquisition or transfer of assets that are devoted to the business of agriculture, it fails to meet the minimum requirements of a family farm corporation under this ordinance.
(C) Within thirty (30) days after becoming an acquired company, the company shall present a declaration of acquisition with the Recorder of each county in which it holds real estate for the affixation of documentary stamps and recording. Such declaration shall set forth the value of real estate holdings of the acquired company in such county. A copy of the Pennsylvania Realty Transfer Tax Declaration of Acquisition may be submitted for this purpose.
(A) Where there is a transfer of a residential property by a licensed real estate broker which property was transferred to him within the preceding year as consideration for the purchase of other residential property, a credit for the amount of the tax paid at the time of the transfer to him shall be given to him toward the amount of the tax due upon the transfer.
(B) Where there is a transfer by a builder of residential property which was transferred to the builder within the preceding year as consideration for the purchase of new, previously unoccupied residential property, a credit for the amount of the tax paid at the time of the transfer to the builder shall be given to the builder toward the amount of the tax due upon the transfer.
(C) Where there is a transfer of real estate which is leased by the grantor, a credit for the amount of tax paid at the time of the lease shall be given the grantor toward the tax due upon the transfer.
(D) Where there is a conveyance by deed of real estate which was previously sold under a land contract by the grantor, a credit for the amount of tax paid at the time of the sale shall be given the grantor toward the tax due upon the deed.
(E) If the tax due upon the transfer is greater than the credit given under this section, the difference shall be paid. If the credit allowed is greater than the amount of tax due, no refund or carryover credit shall be allowed.
In determining the term of a lease, it shall be presumed that a right or option to renew or extend a lease will be exercised if the rental charge to the lessee is fixed or if a method for calculating the rental charge is established.
The tax herein imposed shall be fully paid, and have priority out of the proceeds or any judicial sale of real estate before any other obligation, claim, lien, judgment, estate or costs of the sale and of the writ upon which the sale is made except the State Realty Transfer Tax, and the sheriff, or other officer, conducting said sale, shall pay the tax herein imposed out of the first moneys paid to him in connection therewith. If the proceeds of the sale are insufficient to pay the entire tax herein imposed, the purchaser shall be liable for the remaining tax.
(A) As provided in 16 P.S. §11011-6, as amended by Act of July 7, 1983 (P.L. 40, No. 21), the Recorder of Deeds of Lehigh County and Northampton County, respectively, shall be the collection agent for the local Realty Transfer Tax, including any amount payable to the City based on a redetermination of the amount of tax due by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania of the Pennsylvania Realty Transfer Tax, without compensation from the City.
(B) In order to ascertain the amount of taxes due when the property is located in more than one political subdivision, the Recorder of Deeds of Lehigh County and Northampton County, respectively, shall not accept for recording such a deed unless it is accompanied by a statement of value showing what taxes are due each municipality.
(C) On or before the tenth of each month, the Recorder of Deeds of Lehigh County and Northampton County, respectively, shall pay over to the City all local Realty Transfer Taxes collected, less two (2%) percent for use of the County, by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in reporting collections of the Pennsylvania Realty Transfer Tax. The two (2%) percent commission shall be paid to the County.
(D) Upon a redetermination of the amount of Realty Transfer Tax due by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Recorder of Deeds of Lehigh County and Northampton County, respectively, shall rerecord the deed or record the additional Realty Transfer Tax form only when both the State and local amounts and a rerecording or recording fee has been tendered.
Every document lodged with or presented to the Recorder of Deeds of Lehigh County and Northampton County, respectively, for recording, shall set forth therein and as a part of such document the true, full and complete value thereof, or shall be accompanied by a statement of value executed by a responsible person connected with the transaction showing such connection and setting forth the true, full and complete value thereof or the reason, if any, why such document is not subject to tax under this article. A copy of the Pennsylvania Realty Transfer Tax Statement of Value may be submitted for this purpose. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to any excludable real estate transfers which are exempt from taxation based on family relationship. Other documents presented for the affixation of stamps shall be accompanied by a certified copy of the document and statement of value executed by a responsible person connected with the transaction showing such connection and setting forth the true, full and complete value thereof or the reason, if any, why such document is not subject to tax under this ordinance.
(A) If any part of any underpayment of tax imposed by this article is due to fraud, there shall be added to the tax an amount equal to fifty (50%) percent of the underpayment.
(B) In the case of failure to record a declaration required under this article on the date prescribed therefore, unless it is shown that such failure is due to reasonable cause, there shall be added to the tax five (5%) percent of the amount of such tax if the failure is for not more than one (1) month, with an additional five (5%) percent for each additional month or fraction thereof during which such failure continues, not exceeding fifty (50%) percent in the aggregate.
The tax imposed by this ordinance shall become a lien upon the lands, tenements, or hereditaments, or any interest therein, laying being situated, wholly or in part within the boundaries of the City, which lands, tenements, hereditaments, or interest therein, are described in or conveyed by or transferred by the deed which is the subject of the tax imposed, assessed and levied by this ordinance is due and payable, and continue until discharge by payment, or in accordance with the law, and the Solicitor is authorized to file a municipal or tax claim in the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County or the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, respectively, in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Claims and Liens Act of 1923, 53 P.S. §7101 et seq., its supplements and amendments.
All taxes imposed by this ordinance together with interest and penalties prescribed herein, shall be recoverable as other debts of like character are recovered.
The Treasurer of the City of Bethlehem is charged with the enforcement and collection of tax and is empowered to promulgate and enforce reasonable regulations for enforcement and collection of the tax. The regulations which have been promulgated by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue under 72 P.S. §8101-C et seq. are incorporated into and made a part of this ordinance.
Should any section, subsection, sentence, clause or phrase of this ordinance be declared invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, such decision shall not affect the validity of the ordinance in its entirety or of any part thereof other than that declared to be invalid.
(Ord. 2017 §12. Passed 12/30/66; Ord. 3242-Passed 2/7/89;
Ord. 4259-Passed 6/15/04)