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City of Trenton v. State Board of Tax Appeals

Decided: August 26, 1941.

CITY OF TRENTON, PROSECUTOR,
v.
STATE BOARD OF TAX APPEALS AND RIDER COLLEGE, RESPONDENTS



On certiorari.

For the prosecutor, Louis Josephson.

For the respondent Rider College, William J. Egan (Robert L. Hood, of counsel).

Before Justice Bodine, Perskie and Porter.

Perskie

The opinion of the court was delivered by

PERSKIE, J. The question requiring decision on the facts of this case is whether the State Board of Tax Appeals, erred, as claimed, in holding that the real and personal property of Rider College were exempt from taxation for the year of 1940.

The local assessors of the City of Trenton, New Jersey, assessed the real and personal property of Rider College, located at Trenton, for the year 1940 as follows: "Lands and Improvements, $184,375; Pers. $10,400; Total $194,775." Rider College appealed to the Mercer County Board of Taxation on the ground that it was established and operated as a fundamentally charitable and philanthropic institution and not for profit, and, therefore, its real and personal property

in question were exempt from taxation. N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.6. That appeal was dismissed and the local assessment was sustained. On further appeal to the State Board of Tax Appeals that Board sustained the claimed exemption, reversed the judgment of the Mercer County Board of Taxation, and ordered the assessment canceled. To review the propriety of the judgment of the State Board of Tax Appeals, a Justice of this Court, on the application of the City of Trenton, allowed a writ of certiorari.

The applicable legal principles present no difficulty. The right to the claimed statutory exemption depends entirely upon the facts and circumstances of each particular case. Dana College v. State Board of Tax Appeals, 14 N.J. Mis. R. 308, 310; 184 A. 412; affirmed, 117 N.J.L. 530; 189 A. 620. Since statutes granting exemption from taxation are in the nature of a "renunciation of sovereignty," and are at war with the sound basic principle that the "burden of taxation ought to fall equally upon all," they are most "strongly construed" against those claiming exemption. Thus the facts and circumstances in each case must clearly and convincingly establish the right to exemption within the statute granting exemption, otherwise the general rule is invoked which subjects "all property to a just share of the public burdens." Princeton Country Day School v. State Board, &c., 113 N.J.L. 515, 517; 175 A. 136; Carteret Academy v. State Board of Taxes and Assessment, 102 N.J.L. 525; 133 A. 886; affirmed, 104 N.J.L. 165; 138 A. 919. Otherwise stated, the proofs must be "free from fair doubt." Carteret Academy v. State Board, &c., supra (at p. 529). The burden of proof is upon the claimant to establish the asserted right to exemption. Dwight School of Englewood v. State Board of Tax Appeals, 114 N.J.L. 594, 599; 177 A. 175; affirmed, 117 N.J.L. 113; 187 A. 36.

The application of the stated principles to the facts and circumstances of each case is, as here, not free from difficulty.

Solely in aid of our determination of respondent's claim to exemption as of October 1st, 1939, let us examine the proofs, from the day respondent was established and thereafter

operated, to ascertain whether they properly sustain respondent's claim that it was established and operated as a fundamentally charitable or ...


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