Plaintiff, a limited-dividend non profit housing corporation, incorporated pursuant to N.J.S.A. 55:16-1 et seq. , and defendant Essex County Register, seek summary judgment on their cross-motions. Their action requires this court's interpretation of a portion of the Limited Dividend Housing Act and determination of whether New Jersey's real estate transfer tax applies when realty is conveyed to such a corporation.
On October 31, 1972 plaintiff bought all of the real property owned by Academy Spires Inc., itself a limited dividend housing corporation. When plaintiff presented its deed for recording, defendant Essex County Register required payment of $8,987.50, the transfer tax he said was due under N.J.S.A. 46:15-5 et seq. Plaintiff paid the tax under protest and brought this action for its refund, relying upon N.J.S.A. 55:16-19 which plaintiff maintains entitles it to an exemption for the transfer tax as well as all other state taxes.
N.J.S.A. 55:16-19 provides in part:
Housing corporation [ sic ] organized under the provisions of this Act shall be exempt from payment of any franchise or other State tax.
Defendant contends the rule of ejusdem generis must be used to interpret this statute. Its reasoning proceeds as follows: the words "or other" in the statute should be interpreted to mean "other like tax"; the words "or other state tax" would then mean or other state taxes like a franchise tax and not state taxes generally; since transfer taxes are not like franchise taxes, the transfer tax would not be exempt. Such, concludes defendant, was the intention of the Legislature.
The rule of ejusdem generis , discussed in cases cited by defendant and which would import the above interpretation, is not to be used without considering the intent of the Legislature in drafting statutory provisions.
Statutes cannot be read in a vacuum void of relevant historical and policy considerations and related legislation. [ Matawan v. Monmouth Cty. Tax Board , 51 N.J. 291, 299 (1968)]
The rule of ejusdem generis is in aid of construction where the expression is of doubtful meaning; and it has no application where the legislative design is expressed in plain and unambiguous terms. The doctrine is a specific application of the maxim "noscitur a sociis;" and it would be a perversion of its essential purpose if it were allowed to render general words meaningless. It is not an absolute formula that overrides all other canons of interpretation; and it is never applied to defeat the legislative purpose revealed by the provision in its entirety, giving to all the terms their normal sense and significance. It goes without saying that general terms in a statute must be given a meaning beyond the particular words where it is plain from the whole that they were used in a broader sense. As with all other canons of construction, the doctrine yields to the intention revealed by the context, viewing the language in its ordinary acceptation. Mason v. United States, 260 U.S. 545, 43 S. Ct. 200, 67 L. Ed. 396 (1922); Danciger v. Cooley, 248 U.S. 319, 39 S. Ct. 119, 63 L. Ed. 266 (1918); Helvering v. Stockholms Enskilda Bank, 293 U.S. 84, 55 S. Ct. 50, 79 L. Ed. 211 (1934); United States v. Gilliland, 312 U.S. 86, 61 S. Ct. 518, 85 L. Ed. 598 (1940). [ Edwards v. Mayor etc., of Moonachie , 3 N.J. 17, 23 (1949)]
N.J.S.A. 55:16-19 is clear and unambiguous. Franchise taxes and all other state taxes need not be paid. To rule otherwise would defeat the plain intent of the Legislature. As stated in Harlan v. Fidelity & Casualty Co. , 139 N.J. Super. 226 (Law Div. 1976):
The Legislature is deemed to have intended what it said and the court may not construe a contrary concept. If such was not the legislature's intent it is up to that body to correct its own handiwork.
The purpose of a limited-dividend nonprofit housing corporation is to provide adequate accommodations for families in need of housing and for development and redevelopment of blighted areas. See N.J.S.A. 55:16-4. Projects or improvements by such housing corporations made in blighted areas are exempt from all property taxes. N.J.S.A. 55:14E-11. Tax relief is an ...