On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Monmouth County.
Goldmann, Kolovsky and Carton. The opinion of the court was delivered by Carton, J.A.D.
[104 NJSuper Page 315] Plaintiff Farmingdale Realty Co. appeals from a judgment dismissing its complaint against defendant
Borough of Farmingdale, seeking a tax refund under N.J.S.A. 54:4-54 because of alleged duplicate assessments on certain buildings and improvements for the years 1962, 1963 and 1964. The land assessment is not in question.
In 1962 the improvements were assessed at $187,000. In 1963 and 1964 they were assessed at $215,000. The parties have stipulated that a revaluation firm, employed by defendant Borough in 1962, valued the improvements on plaintiff's property at $144,021, and that the assessor, in computing the assessments, included not only the value of a residence owned and occupied by plaintiff's president, but also duplicated the value of some of the buildings. If these improvements had been assessed on the basis of the valuations fixed by the revaluation firm, the assessments would have been $42,979 less in 1962 and $71,187 less in the years 1963 and 1964. No appeals were taken from these annual assessments.
The parties have also stipulated that these events are reflected only in office records described as "Assessors Cards" originally prepared by the revaluation company in conjunction with the revaluation. The annual tax duplicate contains a single entry for land and another single entry for buildings and improvements which reflect only "a total valuation for land and total valuation for buildings without distinction as to a particular building or how the figures were arrived at."
This situation came to light when plaintiff appealed to the county tax board in 1965 from the $215,000 assessment for that year on improvements. The result was a settlement, confirmed by judgment of the tax board, reciting that the property was assessed in excess of its true value and reducing the value of the buildings to $140,000.
In January 1966 plaintiff filed a petition with the county tax board under N.J.S.A. 54:4-54, seeking to compel defendant to refund the excessive tax payments made following
these assessments. N.J.S.A. 54:4-54 provides, in pertinent part:
"Where by mistake property real or personal has been twice entered and assessed on the tax duplicate, the governing body of the taxing district or county board of taxation may order and cause the tax record to be corrected and if the tax has been twice paid the governing body of the taxing district shall refund the excessive payment without interest. * * *"
Plaintiff also applied to the borough for a refund. The borough refused, and the tax board, in turn, refused to order it to do so. Plaintiff did not appeal to the State Division of Tax Appeals. Instead, it instituted this Law Division action, requesting damages for the amount of the taxes overpaid, totaling $5,644.43 with interest.
The trial judge found that relief should be denied to plaintiff taxpayer because it had not established that the property had been "twice entered and assessed on the tax duplicate." He noted that ((as pointed out above) the tax duplicate itself contained only a single figure for the assessment of land and another one for the assessment of buildings and improvements, without any breakdown for the individual items comprising that figure. The fact that there existed a duplication of the value of certain buildings could therefore be ascertained only by a review of the separate ...