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BASF Corporation Coating and Ink Division v. Town of Belvidere

A-3483-07T1, A-3484-07T1, and A-3485-07T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2009) (Unpublished)

TAXATION; ASSESSMENTS — Although a tax assessor is required to give general notification of a municipality-wide reassessment or obtain approval of a compliance plan for such a reassessment, it does not need to do so when performing assessment maintenance, a practice by which an assessor changes some assessments in years when a district-wide revaluation is not performed.

A municipality revised its assessment of a commercial property applicable to the 2004 through 2006 tax years. A taxpayer appealed the municipality’s determination.

The Tax Court upheld the municipality’s finding as to the 2004 and 2005 tax years and reduced the assessment for the 2006 tax year. The taxpayer appealed, claiming that: (a) the Tax Court erred in concluding that the municipality could reassess its property without complying with the requirements of the applicable statute; and (b) the municipality reassessed the property in bad faith. The Tax Court held that the statute does not require a tax assessor undertaking to reassess a single property to provide the notification specified in the cited statute or obtain the approval of the Division of Taxation and County Board of Taxation of a “compliance plan” for such reassessment. It noted that the statutory scheme relating to the assessment process supported its conclusion that a compliance plan does not apply to a change in a single assessment. The Tax Court found that the statute authorized the assessor to perform “assessment maintenance,” i.e. the practice by which an assessor changes some assessments in years when a district-wide revaluation is not performed. It also held that a compliance plan was only required in connection with assessment maintenance of neighborhoods or an area of a municipality but not for the change in the assessment of a single property. The taxpayer appealed.

The Appellate Division upheld the Tax Court’s findings, holding that in the absence of clear indication of a legislative intent to require a municipality to submit a compliance plan to the Division of Taxation and the County Board of Taxation any time the municipality undertakes to reassess an individual property in order to discharge its responsibility for assessment maintenance. It was unwilling to read the statute as imposing a burden upon municipalities to submit such plans or upon the Division of Taxation and County Boards to review them. Finally, it ruled that the taxpayer’s “bad faith” contention was clearly without merit and did not warrant discussion.

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