A pilot from New York got more than he bargained for last summer when he made a fuel stop in Pennsylvania during a flight to Chicago in his general aviation aircraft.
About a month after the flight, the pilot received a bill from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania demanding payment of a tax equal to 6 percent of the value of his Cessna 210N single-engine airplane. Or he could prove to them that he had paid it elsewhere.
It took months of wrangling and legal assistance to get the tax-demand letters that originated in the Bureau of Enforcement, Planning, Analysis, and Discovery to stop, but the pilot’s uncertainty remained.
When notified of the case by the pilot—an AOPA member who neither resides nor hangars his aircraft in Pennsylvania—AOPA’s government affairs team contacted the state’s aviation and revenue agencies, and was able to get assurances that the case was closed.
The matter had been contested at a time when aviation officials, along with the state’s community and economic development agency, were working on a project to build the commonwealth’s reputation as aviation-friendly.
"This was a surprise to them, and they do really good work trying to keep Pennsylvania aviation friendly," said Jared Esselman, AOPA’s director of state government affairs.
"If anything like this happens to our members we want to know about it so we can do something about it. We don’t want to see trends like this in the states," Esselman said.
What Pennsylvania has been doing to keep aviation friendly was the subject of several AOPA Online reports in the fall. Like several other states, Pennsylvania had adopted AOPA-supported legislation to eliminate its tax on the sale and use of aircraft parts and services, in a bid to make its business climate for aircraft repair and maintenance operations more competitive.
Pennsylvania had also taken an additional, newsworthy step, by actively promoting its new business environment with a media campaign, outreach, and interactive internet tools.
AOPA’s report on the state’s innovative approach to tax reforms prompted the Centurion pilot, whose name is being withheld at his request, to share the account of his tax battle.
In an email to AOPA, the member wrote that he had learned that "there was a 'watcher' at the airport recording aircraft tail numbers and reporting the numbers to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania taxation department" on the day he landed.
Esselman encouraged pilots to share any similar experiences.
"AOPA works to protect members from adverse or harmful policies and taxation. If and when our members run into issues with states regarding taxes or anything else, they can contact AOPA through the Pilot Information Center, and the state advocacy team will help them," he said.