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Lucent Technologies Inc. v. Township of Berkeley Heights

405 N.J. Super. 257, 963 A.2d 1248 (App. Div. 2009)

TAXATION; ASSESSMENTS — The 180 day filing requirement for a municipality seeking to dismiss tax challenges based on false or fraudulent responses is not an absolute bar to entering a request for dismissal after false information is provided by the appealing taxpayer.

After selling its property, a tenant entered into a five-year net lease with the buyer as landlord. The tenant, over the following two years, entered into three sublease agreements for portions of the property. The tenant challenged three municipal assessments of the property before the Tax Court, which dismissed the challenges for two of the appealed years but allowed a challenge for another year to proceed. The Tax Court’s dismissal was based on: the tenant’s failure to disclose the net lease agreement in inquiries made by the municipal tax assessor regarding any income produced by the property; the tenant’s representation of itself as the property owner; and because the tenant’s failure to disclose the net lease agreement rendered its responses to the tax assessor as false. The Tax Court refused to dismiss the challenge for the other year because the municipality’s response had been filed in an untimely manner.

On appeal, the Appellate Division noted that the 180-day filing requirement for municipalities seeking to dismiss tax challenges based on false or fraudulent responses was intended to eliminate eve-of-trial dismissal motions by municipalities. It held that the deadline was not an absolute bar to entering a request for dismissal after false information has been provided. The Court deemed the statute prohibiting such challenges as substantive and not to be abrogated through court rules or procedures, since doing so would have countered the legislative language and intent of preventing such challenges. On that basis, it reversed the Tax Court’s finding and remanded the matter for a dismissal of the tenant’s remaining tax challenge.


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