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UNITED STATES v. CITY OF EAST ORANGE

June 21, 1948

UNITED STATES
v.
CITY of EAST ORANGE et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SMITH

This is a suit to enjoin the enforcement of an asserted tax lien and to quiet title. The suit is before the Court on a motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by the plaintiff pursuant to the Rules of Civil Procedure, rule 12(c), 28 U.S.C.A. following section 723c. There is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the only issue raised is one of law.

Facts.

 The plaintiff is, and has been since December 21, 1946, the owner of a parcel of land in the City of East Orange, formerly the property of Morris Levin and Lillian Levin. This parcel of land was acquired by purchase on the said date, and is described in a deed which was duly recorded on December 23, 1946.

 II.

 Pursuant to the pertinent sections of the statute, R.S. 54:4-23 et seq., N.J.S.A. 54:4-23 et seq., which are quoted in the annexed appendix, the Board of Assessors of the City of East Orange assessed the parcel of land at its 'full and fair value' as of October 1, 1946. This assessment was made preparatory to the establishment of a tax rate and the imposition of the tax for the ensuing year 1947, in accordance with the scheme of taxation. Pursuant to the pertinent section of the statute, R.S. 54:4-35, N.J.S.A. 54:4-35, the assessment list was filed with the County Board of Taxation on January 10, 1947.

 III.

 The tax in question was duly entered in the tax records of the City of East Orange as a charge against the said parcel of land. The defendants thereafter asserted a right to collect the tax and to enforce the statutory lien.

 Discussion.

 It is the contention of the defendants that the parcel of land was subject to an 'inchoate lien' at the time of its acquisition by the plaintiff. There is nothing in either the statute or the cited cases to support this contention. The mere inclusion of the parcel of land in the assessment list did not create a tax lien either inchoate or mature. The tax lien attached, if at all, on January 1, 1947, 'the year for which the taxes (were) assessed,' and in which the tax was due and payable. R.S. 54:5-6, N.J.S.A. 54:5-6. The parcel of land was therefore not subject to a tax lien at the time of its acquisition by the plaintiff.

 The decision of the Court, however, rests on a sounder ground, to wit, the immunity of property of the United States from taxation. It is now well established that the property of the United States, held for public purposes, is immune from taxation by the State. Van Brocklin v. State of Tennessee, 117 U.S. 151, 6 S. Ct. 670, 29 L. Ed. 845; Clallam County v. United States, 263 U.S. 341, 44 S. Ct. 121, 68 L. Ed. 328; New Brunswick v. United States, 276 U.S. 547, 555, 48 S. Ct. 371, 72 L. Ed. 693; United States v. Allegheny County, 322 U.S. 174, 64 S. Ct. 908, 88 L. Ed. 1209; United States v. City of Milwaukee, 7 Cir., 140 F.2d 286; United States v. 150.29 Acres of Land, &c., 7 Cir., 135 F.2d 878. A tax lien, even though created by State statute, may not attach to property owned by the United States and held for public purposes. Ibid.

 Conclusions.

 I.

 The laws of the United States, and not the laws of the State, are determinative of the sole issue raised by the pleadings, to wit, the immunity ...


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