On appeal from the Superior Court, Law Division.
For reversal -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Heher, Oliphant, Wachenfeld, Burling, Jacobs and Brennan. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Oliphant, J. Burling, J. (concurring). Burling, J., concurring in result.
[17 NJ Page 163] This is an appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court, Law Division, entered in favor of the defendant-respondents and against the plaintiff-appellant. The
cause was certified here on our own motion under R.R. 1:10-1(a).
The action was instituted by a complaint in lieu of prerogative writ (mandamus) against the director of revenue and finance and the City of Jersey City to compel them to comply with the provisions of N.J.S.A. 54:2-43 to allow a credit on the taxes due and owing for the year 1953 in accordance with a judgment of the Division of Tax Appeals entered May 29, 1953.
The statute in question reads as follows:
"Where a judgment final has been rendered by the Division of Tax Appeals in the State Department of Taxation and Finance involving real property such judgment shall be conclusive and binding upon the municipal assessor and the taxing district, parties to such appeal, for the assessment year and for the two assessment years succeeding the assessment year covered by the final judgment, except as to changes in the value of the property occurring after the assessment date. Where such changes are alleged, the petition of appeal shall specifically set forth the nature of the changes relied upon as the basis for such appeal. L. 1946, c. 161, p. 729, § 14, supplementing Title 54, c. 2."
The property in question was assessed by the City of Jersey City for the year 1951 at a total value of $530,000. The plaintiff-appellant took an appeal to the Hudson County Board of Taxation which affirmed the assessment, and from this affirmance it appealed to the Division of Tax Appeals which tribunal reduced the assessment to a valuation of $380,652 on the date above stated. During the pendency of the appeal the city continued to assess the real estate for $530,000 for the years 1952 and 1953. The plaintiff took an appeal to the county board from the assessment of 1952 but did not take a similar appeal from the 1953 assessment by the city.
However, the plaintiff paid all taxes as assessed by the city as they became due quarterly, up to and including the third quarter of 1953. On October 30, 1953, which was subsequent to the judgment of the State Division of Tax Appeals on the 1951 assessment, it paid to the city the sum of $2,575.58, which was the balance due for the year 1953 at the current
tax rate as figured on the assessment of the property as reduced by the final judgment of the Division of Tax Appeals for the year 1951. The City Collector of Jersey City accepted this payment but refused to give a receipt showing that all taxes for the year 1953 had been paid on the property.
The action was filed to compel the defendant, the director of revenue and finance, "to change the assessment figures on said lot for 1953 to accord with the judgment of the Division of Tax Appeals for the year 1951 and to change his tax books so as to show full payment of said taxes for the year 1953." Various defenses were set up by the city contending a lack of authority to issue a receipt for any tax bill in less than the full payment of the amount shown on the books and records of the city and alleging lack of authority in various offices to comply with the statute. These defenses are predicated on the theory that the judgment of the Division of Tax Appeals entered on May 29, 1953 was subsequent to the time the 1953 assessment was made by the local assessor on January 10, 1953 (R.S. 54:4-35), and corrected and confirmed as a final assessment by the county board on April 1, 1953 (R.S. 54:4-55), and that no appeal had been taken to the county board from the 1953 assessment.
As to the latter point, the judgment of the Division of Tax Appeals became binding on the municipality from its date, May 29, 1953, as will be pointed out hereafter; therefore there would be no necessity for taking an appeal to the county board prior to August 15, 1953 (R.S. 54:3-21). The principal defense of the city, however, was the contention of the defendant-respondent that the plaintiff-appellant could not ...