Tax Court Refuses to Dismiss Untimely Tax Appeal

In 1959 Highway 34, LLC v. Township of Wall, the Tax Court of New Jersey refused to dismiss a tax appeal as untimely. The court held that while the plaintiff did miss the filing deadline pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:3-21(a)(2), the complaint should not be dismissed because the Notice of Assessment failed to provide adequate instructions on how to file an appeal  as required by N.J.S.A. 54:4-38.1(b).

Tax Court Refuses to Dismiss Untimely Tax Appeal Due to Notice of Assessment’s Inadequate Appeal Instructions

The Facts of the Case

For tax year 2016, the Township of Wall (Township) underwent a district-wide revaluation pursuant to which plaintiff 1959 Highway 34, LLC’s property was assessed at $4,015,700. The Notice of Assessment was mailed to plaintiff on or about February 4, 2016. On April 27, 2016, plaintiff filed a direct tax appeal challenging the assessment. The Township moved to dismiss the complaint as untimely filed under N.J.S.A. 54:3-21(a)(2) as it was not filed within 45 days of the date of mailing of the Notice of Assessment.

The plaintiff opposed the motion. It maintained that N.J.S.A. 54:3-21(a)(2), which changed the deadline to file tax appeals in counties participating in the Assessment Demonstration Program (ADP), never addressed district-wide revaluations and applied only to appeals from judgments of a county board of taxation, not to direct appeals to the Tax Court. Plaintiff further argued that the May 1 deadline for a district-wide revaluation contained in N.J.S.A. 54:3-21(a)(1) applied, which rendered the complaint timely.

In the alternative, the plaintiff argued that it was not notified of the new deadline for direct appeals to the Tax Court since the instructions on the Notice of Assessment on how to file direct appeals only referenced the Tax Court’s website. However, the website did not provide the new deadline. Instead, the only information on filing direct appeals would be to click on the link for the court rules, which provide that an assessment from revaluation must be appealed by May 1. Plaintiff argued the Notice was therefore in violation of N.J.S.A. 54:4-38.1 which expressly requires that the Notice include instructions on how to appeal an assessment.

The Court’s Decision

The Tax Court denied the Township’s motion to dismiss the complaint as untimely because of the inadequate instructions on the Notice of Assessment.

The court first concluded that N.J.S.A. 54:3-21(a)(2) is “plain in its requirement that all direct appeals to the Tax Court must be filed by the later of April 1 or 45 days from the date of bulk mailing of assessment notices.” The court further held that the deadline applied “regardless of the type of action that generated the assessments, i.e., whether imposed by a reassessment or a district-wide revaluation, having left to the participant-county the implementation of the necessary mechanics and procedures for imposing the assessments.”

Nonetheless, the court refused to dismiss the complaint as untimely because the instructions on the Notice of Assessment referencing the New Jersey court’s website failed to adequately notify taxpayers of the requirements for filing a direct appeal to the Tax Court, including the deadline to do so. According to the court, the “error jeopardized plaintiff’s due process rights and violated the mandate in N.J.S.A. 54:4-38.1.”

For more information about the Tax Court’s decision or the legal issues involved, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Government Law Group.

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