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H.J. Bailey Company v. Neptune Township

399 N.J. Super. 381, 944 A.2d 706 (App. Div. 2008)

TAXATION; ASSESSMENTS — There is no penalty if the owner of non-income-producing property fails to respond to a written request for information made by a municipal tax assessor.

A landowner received a request from the municipal tax assessor for information needed to assess the taxable value of its property. The landowner never responded to the request and the tax assessor went on to assess the property’s value at more than 1.5 million dollars. The property owner appealed to the Tax Court. The municipality argued that the landowner was barred from appealing the assessment because it never responded to the assessor’s request. The Tax Court rejected the municipality’s request for dismissal.

On an appeal brought by the municipality, the Appellate Division noted that all property owners were required to respond to requests from a municipal tax assessor for information regarding a property’s value. It pointed out that failure to respond negates a property owner’s right to appeal an assessor’s valuation of an income-producing property, but not of owner-occupied property. The Court also pointed out that there was no apparent consequence in the language of the statute if the owner of a non-income producing property fails to respond to a tax assessor’s information request. It agreed with the municipality that the statute’s language posed difficulties for municipalities who have no way to determine whether a property was income-producing. The Court, however, concluded that it could not ignore the plain language of the statute that only owners of income-producing properties would be denied an appeal for not responding to a tax assessor. It recognized the public policy implications of allowing property owners to ignore requests from tax assessors, but pointed out that it not the judiciary’s responsibility to address such matters, only the legislature’s responsibility. It further added that if a property owner fails to respond to a request from a municipal tax assessor, it runs the risk of losing an appeal of the assessment if the property is later found to be income-producing. Thus, the Court affirmed the Tax Court’s refusal to dismiss the landowner’s appeal.


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