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Dick Yuengling rips Philly City Hall over lawsuit

DICK YUENGLING said he was "probably the happiest guy in the beer business" - until Tuesday.

City says Yuengling owes $6.6 million in taxes.
City says Yuengling owes $6.6 million in taxes.Read more

DICK YUENGLING said he was "probably the happiest guy in the beer business" - until Tuesday.

That's when he learned, from an article in the Daily News, that the city was suing his Pottsville brewery, D.G. Yuengling & Son, for more than $6 million in business taxes it claims he owes.

In an interview Wednesday on the Chris Stigall Show on Talk Radio 1210 AM, the brewery president said he had yet to see the suit but thinks the city is trying to make an example of him.

"They're cherry-picking," he said. "I can't believe that they tax every pack of gum that comes into the city of Philadelphia."

Councilman Bill Green said it's in the city's interest. "I don't know whether it's a warning shot for everyone else in the market," he said. "It's a good idea if it is."

The suit, filed last week, seeks $6.6 million in business-income- and-receipt taxes (BIRT) from Yuengling. That figure includes interest and penalty fees.

The suit claims that Yuengling refused to let the city's Revenue Department audit its books, so the department made an assessment based on a Philly beer distributor's accounts-payable list.

The suit has no details of what activities Yuengling conducted in Philadelphia that the city found to be taxable. City officials declined to elaborate.

Green said filing suit may have been the only way to access Yuengling's records. "This lawsuit will allow the Department of Revenue to do the discovery that Yuengling rejected," he said.

The real question, Green said, is whether the city is seeking just gross-receipts taxes under BIRT or also net-income taxes for business activities in Philadelphia.

For example, Green said, the city may consider promotional activities such as billboards.

So, does the city tax every business from General Motors to Anheuser-Busch in the same way?

"You'll only know about people not paying taxes when we sue them," Green said.

Stigall, the radio host, called the lawsuit "a character assassination . . . of a really great corporate citizen."

Yuengling - who did not return requests for comment from the Daily News - said he thinks knows the reason for the suit:

"The government has spent more money than they have, and they're just coming after everybody to tax them and recoup some of the inept spending that they've done."