For affirmance -- Chief Justice Weintraub and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Haneman. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Schettino, J.
This is an appeal involving property tax assessments for the year 1964.
WHYY, Inc., a nonprofit Pennsylvania corporation authorized to do business in New Jersey, provides recreational and educational radio and television broadcasts in the Delaware Valley area. Its registered office in New Jersey is at 709 Market Street, Camden. The corporation's license precludes all commercial advertising. Consequently, WHYY is dependent upon contributions for its financing. Among its donors are the Board of Education of Philadelphia, the City of Philadelphia, the Tri-State Instruction Council, and others.
The facilities of the corporation in New Jersey, located in the Borough of Glassboro, consist of 50 acres of land, on which are erected a transmittal station and a tower.
WHYY did not apply for a tax exemption pursuant to the procedures set forth in N.J.S.A. 54:4-4.4.*fn1 The radio station
did, however, request the Glassboro Council on November 12, 1963 for an exemption from taxes as an educational nonprofit corporation. Prior to this request, by letter dated November 7, 1963 to the Glassboro Council, WHYY forwarded a copy of the corporation's Annual Report and the corporation's charter to demonstrate its nonprofit and educational character.
The claim for exemption was denied. WHYY petitioned the Gloucester County Board of Taxation, claiming an exempt status. Again, the claim was denied. WHYY then petitioned the State Division of Tax Appeals, and the claim was there denied. An appeal was taken to the Appellate Division, which affirmed, 91 N.J. Super. 269 (1966), holding that WHYY's property, although owned by a nonprofit corporation, was not exempt from New Jersey tax inasmuch as WHYY was not incorporated or organized under the laws of New Jersey as is required by N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.6.*fn2 WHYY thereafter appealed to this Court.
The fundamental approach of our statutes is that ordinarily all property shall bear its just and equal share of the public burden of taxation. As the existence of government is a necessity, taxes are demanded and received in order for government to function. Statutes granting exemption from taxation represent a departure and consequently they are most strongly construed against those claiming
exemption. The burden of proving a tax-exempt status is upon the claimant. Town of Bloomfield v. Academy of Med. of N.J., 47 N.J. 358, 363 (1966); Pingry Corp. v. Hillside Tp., 46 N.J. 457, 461 (1966); Princeton Univ. Press v. Borough of Princeton, 35 N.J. 209, 214 (1961).
WHYY argues (1) that if N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.6 discriminates against foreign corporations in granting exemptions, it is unconstitutional and is a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) that because it has qualified to transact business in New Jersey by registering with the Secretary of State, it is in effect organized under the laws of New Jersey within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.6 and, thus, is entitled to exemption; and (3) that it would be useless for it to go through the meaningless act of incorporating in this State.
The borough moved to dismiss the appeal before us, urging that the constitutional issue was not raised prior to the appeal to us and, as the decision by the Appellate Division was unanimous, WHYY has no right to appeal. R.R. 1:7-1(c). Secondly, the borough argues that because WHYY is a foreign corporation which did not organize under the laws of New Jersey within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.6, it is not entitled to an exemption. Finally, the borough ...