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Petrie Retail, Inc. v. Town of Secaucus

363 N.J. Super. 74, 831 A.2d 106 (App. Div. 2003)

TAXATION; INTEREST—Even though a municipality may write one check for eight separate tax appeal settlements for a single taxpayer, the date of filing of each separate judgment is dispositive and the municipality is wrong when it claims no interest is due because its payment was made within 60 days after filing the last judgment.

A property owner and a municipality settled eight separate tax appeals. The stipulation of settlement “contained a standard clause waiving [the taxpayer’s] right to statutory interest, ... ‘provided the tax refund is paid within 60 days of the date of entry of the Tax Court judgment.’” Six of the eight judgments were entered on September 1, 2000. Two were not entered until September 22, 2000. Two of the original six judgments were amended and re-entered on September 11, 2000. The municipality wrote a refund check for all eight appeals on October 24, but because of insufficient funds to cover the check, it was not mailed until November 2. The taxpayer received a check on November 6, or sixty-six days after September 1. The taxpayer requested statutory interest on the amount owed under the six original September 1 judgments. The municipality argued that the judgment should have been considered as a single package because only one refund check was issued. Under that theory, the sixty day period should have started on September 22, the date the final two of the eight judgments were entered. It also argued that the sixty day waiver provision was “boilerplate,” not intended “for strict enforcement but merely as a guide for timely payment.” Under that argument, the municipality asked the Tax Court “to invoke its equitable jurisdiction to extend the waiver of interest provision.” The lower court awarded interest on the four unamended judgments that were filed on September 1, but not on the two amended judgments of September 11 or on the September 24 judgments, because each of the last four judgments were filed within the sixty day waiver period. On appeal, the Court rejected the municipality’s position, finding no support “in the record in our jurisprudence” for the municipality’s assertion that all of the judgments should have been considered as a package dated as of the filing of the last of the eight judgments. Had that been included within the settlement terms, it might have decided otherwise. The Court also noted out that the taxpayer had no obligation to warn the municipality of the impending deadline. With respect to the two judgments that were amended and refiled on September 11, the Court pointed out that the original judgments, on their face, were entered in the name of an original party to the lawsuit and not to the ultimate payee. Consequently, it believed that the municipality “could not have processed the voucher in favor of” the actual taxpayer, rather than the party that was erroneously named in the first place.

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