The Pennsylvania legislature is working on a bill which, on its surface, may sound great to many: a cut in property taxes. What people may not understand is that the supposed relief will come at a very high cost, including higher personal income and sales taxes. Additionally, school districts that are in debt will be able to continue to charge residents property taxes for years to come, despite the higher and expanded taxes implemented to make up for the property tax reduction.
Under this new scheme, sales taxes are likely to not only increase, but to expand to include access to legal help for some of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians. Imposing a sales tax on most legal services would create a major financial barrier for individuals with lower and moderate incomes who need legal representation the most.
For most people, hiring a lawyer is a necessity and not a luxury item. We believe that access to justice is a basic constitutional right that should not be taxed and treated as a commodity. Increasing the cost of effective legal representation by imposing a sales tax would impact persons of limited means who often need a lawyer to:
- obtain workers’ compensation or Social Security benefits that have been wrongly denied;
- seek Court ordered protection from an abusive spouse or parent;
- fight a property assessment action by their local government;
- deal with a hostile landlord or tenant;
- have a simple will written or probate the will of a loved one;
- avoid a home foreclosure.
Contact your Pennsylvania legislators and urge them to protect your access to justice.