On appeal from Division of Tax Appeals.
The question raised in this appeal is which statute (or statutes, as claimed by appellant in this case) limits the time for appealing final tax assessments to the Division of Tax Appeals under the Corporation Business Tax Act (1945), N.J.S.A. 54:10A-1 et seq.
The operative facts are not in dispute. The answer to the question posed above is found in the interpretation of the applicable statutes governing appeals of tax assessments under said act.
Appellant Vicoa, Inc. is a New Jersey corporation engaged in the manufacture of wall covering and other laminated materials. On November 22, 1976 respondent Director, Division of Taxation (Director), assessed appellant's estimated taxes under said act for the tax years ending April 20, 1972; April 20, 1973; April 20, 1974 and April 20, 1975. Following the receipt of further data from appellant, the Director, by letter dated December 27, 1976, reduced the previously assessed estimated taxes.
Appellant protested the assessment and an informal hearing was held on July 1, 1977. As a result of the hearing the Director further reduced the assessment and issued a final determination, dated July 20, 1977, imposing the liability of $7,275.09 for corporate business taxes for appellant's 1971 to 1974 tax years.*fn1 According to appellant, discussions were held with representatives of the Division of Taxation, who abated one-half of the interest assessed, and payment of the agreed sum of $6,136.65 was made on August 2, 1977.*fn2
On September 14, 1977 appellant filed with the Division of Taxation separate claims for refunds for the taxes assessed for the years 1971 to 1974. On September 30, 1977 the Division of Taxation informed appellant of the rejection of appellant's claims for refund. That letter stated:
The Refund Branch adheres to the decision rendered on July 20, 1977 by the Conference Section and refers the taxpayer to R.S. 54:10A 19.2 which is the next avenue of appeal after the hearing of July 5, 1977.
On October 27, 1977 appellant filed a petition of appeal with the Division of Tax Appeals (hereinafter Division). That petition was filed more than three months after the July 20, 1977 assessment determination, but less than three months after the September 30, 1977 rejection of the refund claim. On November 17, 1977 the Division returned the petition to appellant because it was not timely filed. Appellant attempted to resubmit the petition on December 5, 1977 but it was again rejected. On December 27, 1977 appellant again resubmitted the petition in conjunction with two
motions seeking a ruling that the petition was timely filed in accordance with the two-year statute of limitation of N.J.S.A. 54:49-14.
Oral argument on the motions was heard before Division Judge Lario on January 12, 1978. On March 2, 1978 Judge Lario filed his recommended findings and conclusions, rejecting appellant's petition. Thereafter the Division rendered a panel report, dated May 4, 1978, which adopted Judge Lario's recommended findings of fact and conclusions of law. On July 6, 1978 a final judgment reflecting the panel report was ...