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Universal Folding Box Co., Inc. v. Hoboken City

362 N.J. Super. 429, 828 A.2d 925 (App. Div. 2003)

TAXATION—Although there is no stay of a judgment delaying the effectiveness of a reduced property tax assessment, payment of any refund is governed by a statute that requires payment only after a final judgment.

A taxpayer challenged the constitutionality of a particular statute, as interpreted by the Tax Court, “requiring exhaustion of the municipality’s right to appeal prior to compelling the issuance of a property tax refund.” An appeal was filed for tax years 1994 through 1998. In August of 2000, the Tax Court entered judgment in the taxpayer’s favor, reducing the assessment for the relevant time period. The Appellate Division affirmed the Tax Court’s decision, but the municipality petitioned for Certification before the New Jersey Supreme Court. While that petition was outstanding, the taxpayer moved before the Tax Court to compel a refund together with interest. The statute challenged by the taxpayer sets forth that refunds, together with interest thereon, are to be paid within sixty days after the date of a final judgment. The Tax Court interpreted “final judgment” to “mean a point in time wherein all appeals are exhausted.” On further appeal, the taxpayer contended that such a statutory interpretation conflicted with a Rule of the Court which provides that “neither an appeal nor a motion for leave to appeal, nor a proceeding for certification, nor any other proceeding ... in the matter shall stay proceedings a civil action… .” On that basis, the taxpayer argued that the statute was “an unconstitutional intrusion by the Legislature into the exclusive authority of the Supreme Court to promulgate and adopt rules governing the administration, practice and procedure of the state courts.” Both the Tax Court and the Appellate Division found the taxpayer’s arguments to be without merit. Clearly to each, the Tax Court judgment had not been stayed. They required “a lower assessment for taxpayer’s properties for the years 1994 through 1998. The municipality complied with that judgment, and, in fact, had lowered the assessments for those years. Therefore, nothing has been stayed.” The issue dealing with refunds for taxes is governed by a statute and the payment requirement is triggered by the issuance of a final judgment.

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