On appeal from Division of Tax Appeals in the Department of the Treasury to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, certified by the Supreme Court on its own motion.
For affirmance -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Heher, Oliphant, Wachenfeld, Burling, Jacobs and Brennan. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Vanderbilt, C.J.
[21 NJ Page 91] This appeal brings to us for determination the question as to whether the procedure provided for in the Omitted Assessments Law, N.J.S.A. 54:4-63.12 et seq., may be used to levy an assessment on an improvement to real estate that was completed after the assessment date and
during the tax year but omitted from the assessment for that year or whether the failure to use the procedure provided for in the Added Assessments Law, N.J.S.A. 54:4-63.1 et seq. during the time prescribed therein precludes the inclusion of such assessment under the Omitted Assessments Law, supra. The Division of Tax Appeals affirmed the action of the Hudson County Board of Taxation, taken at the instance of the Township of Weehawken, in levying an added assessment of $1,534,000 for the year 1952 (prorated for a period of six months for a net total added assessment of $767,000) on improvements in Block 45 in the taxing district of Weehawken which had been omitted from the assessment rolls for that year. The New York State Realty & Terminal Co. and the United Fruit Company appealed to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court from the Division's determination and we certified the matter on our own motion while pending there.
The New York State Realty & Terminal Co. is the owner of the real estate designated as Block 45. In the year 1950 it leased the land to United Fruit Company. Under this lease the premises were to be improved by the erection of certain structures. Construction was thereafter commenced and as of October 1, 1951, the assessing date for the year 1952, N.J.S.A. 54:4-1, the work on a large building had only been partially completed. The municipal assessors levied an assessment of $166,000, that being, according to their standards, the construction value of the structures that then existed in the incomplete state (see Opinion of the Attorney General, No. 7, 1951). The building was completed on or about June 30, 1952, but notwithstanding, no added assessment was made by the municipal assessors as of October 1, 1952, and no steps were taken pursuant to the Added Assessments Law, supra, to add any assessment at any time during the calendar year 1952.
Neither the completed structures nor the land was locally assessed for the year 1953, but both were assessed by the State as Class II railroad property for the 1953 tax year, at the instance of the Township of Weehawken.
On November 5, 1953, the Township Committee of the Township of Weehawken adopted a resolution authorizing the municipality to take action before the Hudson County Board of Taxation, pursuant to the Omitted Assessments Law, supra (L. 1947, c. 413), to obtain the inclusion of the added assessment for the building completed in June 1952, but omitted from the tax rolls.
On December 15, 1953 the taxpayers were served with a notice and complaint, pursuant to the provisions of the statute, returnable before the Hudson County Board of Taxation on December 22, 1953. After hearing and arguments on that day the county board entered a judgment wherein it was:
"ORDERED that an omitted added assessment be made against the improvements of the United Fruit Co. or New York State Realty & Terminal Co. or New York Central Railroad Co., situated in Block 45, in the taxing district of Weehawken, for the year 1952, as follows: Buildings $1,534,000, Total $1,534,000; prorated for a period of six months for a net total added assessment of Buildings $767,000, total $767,000."
The taxpayers appealed to the Division of Tax Appeals on the ground that such judgment was contrary to the provisions of the statutes and praying that the "omitted-added assessments" be cancelled.
These salient facts appeared to be undisputed in the hearing before the Division: (1) the value placed on the structures as of the assessing date October 1, 1951 for the tax year 1952 was $166,000 and that the 1952 tax duplicate showed the levy as "$166,000 c.v." (the latter two initials evidently relating to "construction value"); (2) the buildings involved in these proceedings were completed on or about June 30, 1952 and that the taxpayers had not paid any taxes on the completed buildings or improvements for the period commencing July 1, 1952 to December 31, 1952; (3) the quantum of the assessment is not in dispute.
Generally it is provided by the Added Assessments Law, N.J.S.A. 54:4-63.1 to 63.11 inclusive, supra, that new construction, if completed ...