Justia Tax Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Court of Appeal
Ellis v. County of Calaveras
Plaintiff-appellant Jon Ellis appealed the dismissal of his suit against County of Calaveras, the Assessment Appeals Board for the County of Calaveras (the AAB), the Assessor for the County of Calaveras (the assessor), and the Auditor-Controller for the County of Calaveras (the auditor-controller) to Ellis’s petition and complaint relating to property taxes assessed against his real property. Ellis owned real property in Calaveras County on which he was constructing a large detached garage. In 2009, he was assessed property taxes based on an appraised value of the garage set by the assessor at $140,000 (90 percent of the estimated total cost of construction of $156,800). Ellis sought a reduction of the assessment from the AAB. The AAB reduced the value of the garage to $117,600, based on a finding that construction was only 75 percent complete. In February 2011, Ellis contested that finding by seeking writ relief from the trial court, but the parties reached a settlement before the trial court ruled on the merits. In 2010, Ellis was assessed property taxes based on the partially constructed garage having a “ ‘base year value’ ” in 2010 of $117, 600. In light of this assessment, in December 2011, after he had received a property tax assessment as of the 2011 lien date, Ellis sought a writ to enforce the settlement agreement. When his attempts to enforce the settlement agreement failed, Ellis filed an application with the AAB to reduce the assessment for his 2010 property taxes. He designated the application, which was filed November 29, 2012, as a claim for a tax refund, and he indicated his challenge was premised on the base year value being incorrect and there having been no new construction as of the 2010 lien date. By the time Ellis filed his application, construction of the garage had been deemed complete and a supplemental assessment had been issued. He also received a regular assessment as of the 2012 lien date. In July 2013, the AAB heard Ellis’s appeal of his 2010 tax assessment and determined Ellis’s appeal was not timely filed, and that it therefore lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal. In March 2014, Ellis petitioned the trial court seeking a traditional or administrative writ of mandate, refund of his property taxes, and declaratory relief. The trial court found that Ellis had not exhausted his administrative remedies, he had an adequate remedy at law, and that to the extent the pleading could be construed as a complaint, it was barred by res judicata or collateral estoppel because the trial court’s previous denial of Ellis’s motion to enforce the settlement agreement “amounted to a determination of the merits of the same legal arguments raised [here.]” Therefore, the trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend, and subsequently entered a judgment of dismissal. Ellis appealed that judgment, but finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Ellis v. County of Calaveras" on Justia Law
Jewish Community Ctrs. Dev. Corp. v. County of Los Angeles
The County appealed the trial court's judgment in favor of JCC on its property tax refund action based on the welfare exemption in Revenue and Taxation Code section 214, contending that the trial court erred by not deferring to an advisory rule of the SBE. The SBE interpreted section 214 to mean that both the owner and third party operator of a property used for charitable purposes must file claims for welfare exemptions. The court concluded that, while the statutory and regulatory scheme required JCC to file a claim for a welfare exemption as well as a claim for an organizational clearance certificate, it imposed no other conditions. Therefore, the SBE’s interpretation of section 214 was clearly erroneous. The court also concluded that the SBE’s advisory rule regarding who must file a welfare exemption is not binding and should not be given independent legal effect. The court further concluded that the County failed to establish that the trial court should have denied a tax refund because JCC’s claims were tardy and its claim forms were incomplete. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Jewish Community Ctrs. Dev. Corp. v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law
Crawley v. Alameda Cnty, Waste Mgmt. Auth.
The Alameda County Waste Management Authority imposed a $9.55 annual charge on all households for disposal of household hazardous waste, by enactment of an ordinance entitled “An Ordinance Establishing a Household Hazardous Waste Collection and Disposal Fee.” Crawley challenged the Ordinance via a petition for a writ of mandate or administrative mandamus, arguing that the fee constituted an assessment under article XIII D of the California Constitution, requiring approval by a majority of the electorate pursuant to section 4. In the alternative, Crawley contended the fee was not imposed in compliance with the requirements of article XIII D, section 6. The court of appeal affirmed dismissal without leave to amend, rejecting Crawley’s assertion that the fee is not incidental to property ownership and concluding that the fee falls within an exemption to the constitutional requirements. View "Crawley v. Alameda Cnty, Waste Mgmt. Auth." on Justia Law
Golden Gate Hill Development Co. v. County of Alameda
In November 2009, County of Alameda voters approved Measures I and J levying special parcel taxes by the Albany Unified School District. Plaintiff-appellant Golden Gate Hill Development Company, Inc. was the owner of a parcel of real property in the City of Albany subject to the tax. In February 2014, appellant filed suit against the County and District seeking a refund of taxes paid under the Measures. Golden Gage Hill alleged the tax rates in the Measures were improper because different rates are imposed on residential and nonresidential properties, as well as nonresidential properties of different sizes. The complaint referenced a recent decision in this district, “Borikas v. Alameda Unified School Dist.” (214 Cal.App.4th 135 (2013)), which declared invalid a different parcel tax with similar rate classifications. Respondents moved to dismiss, contending the complaint failed to state a claim because, under Code of Civil Procedure section 860, et seq. (“the validation statutes”), appellant was required to present its claims in a “reverse validation action” within 60 days of passage of the Measures. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend. Because appellant has not shown there was a basis for its refund claim independent of the alleged invalidity of the Measures, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Golden Gate Hill Development Co. v. County of Alameda" on Justia Law
Marlton Recovery Partners, LLC v. County of L.A.
Marlton appealed from the denial of its verified petition for peremptory writ of mandate, seeking to overturn a decision by the County denying Marlton's request for cancellation of tax penalties. The court concluded that, under Revenue and Taxation Code section 4985.2, a tax payer may not be in delinquent status as to any tax period in excess of four years in order to seek relief for penalties accrued. In this case, the trial court properly considered lack of payment and correctly concluded that section 4985.2 requires timely payment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Marlton Recovery Partners, LLC v. County of L.A." on Justia Law
Carloss v. County of Alameda
The county seized and sold residential property that was in default on property taxes. Sale proceeds exceeded the tax delinquency. Carloss, the son of the deceased former resident of the property, made a claim under Rev. & Tax. Code, 4675(a), (e)(1)(B), (f), which permits a “person with title of record” to tax-defaulted property or the person’s successor to claim sale proceeds in excess of the tax liability. Carloss’s mother was listed as the property owner in county tax records and had lived in the house for over 50 years. The county denied the claim because no deed appears in the county records, reasoning that title of record can be established only with a recorded deed. The trial court found the action time-barred, as not filed within 90 days of the administrative decision. The court of appeal reversed, finding the action timely and that a recorded grant deed is not the exclusive means of proving title of record. While proving title may be difficult in the absence of such a deed, in unusual circumstances such as Carloss alleged, title of record may be established by various recorded instruments, assessor’s records, and testimony that, as a whole, proves that the claimant or the claimant’s predecessor in interest held title of record. View "Carloss v. County of Alameda" on Justia Law