Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court

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Plaintiff segTEL, Inc. was a telecommunications company that owned and/or operated a fiber optic cable network throughout New Hampshire, including within the City of Nashua. It did not own any poles or conduits within the City, and did not have its own license from the City authorizing its occupation of the City’s rights of way. Instead, pursuant to pole attachment agreements with the utility providers, the plaintiff remitted a fee to the utility providers in exchange for the right to place its fiber optic cables on their poles and conduits. These pole attachment agreements did not require the plaintiff to pay property taxes assessed by the City. Having become aware of plaintiff’s use of the utility providers’ poles and conduits, the City in 2014 assessed plaintiff property taxes of $1,507.94 for its use of the City’s rights of way. Plaintiff applied for an abatement, which the City denied. Thereafter, plaintiff brought this action in superior court, seeking: (1) a declaratory judgment that the City was not entitled to impose the tax; and (2) to strike the City’s 2014 tax assessment. The trial court granted summary judgment to plaintiff, ruling that “[b]ecause [the plaintiff] has not entered into an agreement in which it consented to be taxed,” the City could not lawfully tax the plaintiff for its use and occupation of the City’s rights of way. The City appealed, and finding no reversible error in the trial court’s judgment, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Segtel, Inc. v. City of Nashua" on Justia Law

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New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, Inc. (NHEC) filed tax abatement appeals to the Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) for 23 municipal assessments of its property that occurred in 2011 and 2012. The BTLA held a consolidated hearing over nine days between January and February 2015 regarding NHEC’s tax abatement appeals. During the hearing, NHEC presented expert witness testimony and an appraisal of NHEC’s property from George Lagassa, a certified general real estate appraiser and the owner of Mainstream Appraisal Associates, LLC. In his appraisals, Lagassa estimated the market value of NHEC’s property by reconciling the results of four valuation approaches: a sales comparison approach; an income approach, which estimated the value of NHEC’s property by capitalizing the company’s net operating income; a cost approach, which estimated the net book value (NBV) of NHEC’s property by calculating the original cost less book depreciation (OCLBD) of NHEC’s property; and a second cost approach, which estimated the value of NHEC’s property by calculating the reproduction cost new less depreciation (RCNLD) of NHEC’s property. NHEC appeals the BTLA order denying 16 of NHEC’s 23 individual tax abatement appeals regarding its property. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error in the BTLA’s order and affirmed it. View "Appeal of New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff DirecTV, Inc. appealed a superior court decision denying a petition for property tax abatement for the tax years 2007, 2008, and 2009. The property at issue was located in New Hampton and used by DirecTV as a satellite uplink facility. On appeal, DirecTV argued that the trial court erred when it: (1) ruled that satellite antennas and batteries used to provide backup power constituted fixtures; and (2) determined the value of the property. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded after review that the antennas and batteries were not fixtures, and therefore, taxable as real estate. The Court reversed the superior court on that issue, vacated its decision on the valuation of the property, and remanded for further proceedings. View "DirecTV, Inc. v. Town of New Hampton" on Justia Law

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Respondent Town of New London (Town) appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment to petitioners Robert Carr and Raoul & Karen, LLC (Raoul & Karen), in their appeal of the Town’s denial of their request for a property tax abatement pursuant to RSA 76:16 (Supp. 2016). During the 2014 tax year, Carr owned property in the Town which he sold to Raoul & Karen. The house on the property was struck by lightning and burned to the ground on July 1, 2014, leaving only a few outbuildings on the property. As a result of the house’s destruction, the petitioners could not use it for 272 of the 365 days of the 2014 tax year. The Town assessed the house at $688,000 for that tax year. In the previous year, RSA 76:16 came into effect that provided for prorated tax assessments for buildings damaged under certain conditions. Petitioners did not apply for a proration of their property tax assessment, rather, they petitioned the Town for property tax abatement under RSA 76:16 in January 2015, six months after the home’s destruction. The Town did not dispute that petitioners filed their application for abatement under RSA 76:16 in a timely manner, but the Town denied petitioners’ application because they had not timely filed for proration under RSA 76:21. The trial court construed RSA 76:21 in petitioners’ favor, and ruled that the statute did “not limit taxpayers’ ability to apply for abatement under RSA 76:16.” The court then evaluated whether petitioners had shown “good cause” for abatement, and concluded that they had. Accordingly, the court granted summary judgment in petitioners’ favor. The Town appealed, but finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Carr & Town of New London" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Kadle Properties Revocable Realty Trust (Trust), challenged the dismissal of the Trust’s appeal to the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA), filed after respondent, the City of Keene (City), denied the Trust’s application for an educational use tax exemption. The Trust owned property in Keene that included an office building. A separate, for-profit corporation, Config Systems, Incorporated (Config Systems), rented a portion of the Trust’s office building, where it offered computer classes. The Trust did not own or operate Config Systems, but Daniel Kadle, in addition to serving as trustee for the Trust, was a beneficiary of the Trust and the sole shareholder of Config Systems. The Trust sought the exemption based upon Config Systems’s use of part of the property as a school. The Trust appealed the City’s denial of its request to the BTLA. During the BTLA hearing on the Trust’s appeal, the City moved to dismiss the appeal. The BTLA granted the City’s motion, reasoning that the property owner, the Trust, was not a school, and that Config Systems, the entity operating the school which the Trust claims qualified the property for an exemption, did not own the property. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Kadle Properties Revocable Realty Trust" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, The Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese in New Hampshire, A Corporation Sole, d/b/a St. George’s Episcopal Church (Church), appealed a superior court order denying its summary judgment motion and granting that of the defendant, Town of Durham (Town), based upon a finding that 24 spaces in the Church’s parking lot that are leased to University of New Hampshire (UNH) students were taxable. Until 2013, the Church received a religious tax exemption under RSA 72:23, III for its entire parking lot. In early 2013, the Town learned that the Church leased spaces to UNH students. At that time, the Town believed students leased 30 of the 37 parking spaces. Accordingly, after determining that the leased parking spaces were no longer exempt from taxation, the Town issued the Church a tax bill. After review of the Church’s arguments on appeal, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the Church did not meet its burden of demonstrating that the leased spaces were exempt. The Court affirmed the superior court order. View "Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese in New Hampshire v. Town of Durham" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Signal Aviation Services, Inc. (Signal) appealed a superior court grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant City of Lebanon (City) in this action by Signal for, among other things, breach of contract. The City cross-appealed a portion of the trial court’s order interpreting the contract. Signal leased 8.91 acres at the Lebanon Municipal Airport (airport) as assignee of a Lease and Operating Agreement (LOA). The City owned the airport and was the lessor under the LOA. The LOA granted Signal the nonexclusive right and obligation to provide fixed based operator (FBO) services at the airport. In granting this nonexclusive right, the City agreed in paragraph 3M(2) of the LOA that “[a]ny other operator of aeronautical endeavors or activities will not be permitted to operate on the Airport under rates, terms [or] conditions which are more favorable than those set forth in this Agreement.” In 2006, the City increased the assessed value of the land leased by Signal, not including the improvements, resulting in a corresponding increase in Signal’s property tax liability. Signal applied for an abatement of taxes for the years 2006 and 2007. The City’s assessors denied abatement, and Signal appealed to the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA). The BTLA dismissed the appeals because Signal failed to present evidence of the property’s market value. Signal did not appeal that decision, bringing instead this suit, claiming, among other things, breach of contract. Its writ alleged that the City “materially breached its obligations under the [LOA] by providing more favorable and disproportionate tax assessments and taxation schemes under agreements with other entities at the Airport providing commercial aeronautical services there.” After review, the Supreme Court affirmed, having concluded that paragraph 3M(2), so far as it concerned taxation, merely obligated the City to require all other operators to pay all lawfully levied or assessed taxes. View "Signal Aviation Services, Inc. v. City of Lebanon" on Justia Law

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Respondent City of Concord appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment to petitioner Granite State Management & Resources (GSMR), and denying summary judgment to the City, based upon a finding that GSMR is a charitable organization eligible for a tax exemption under RSA 72:23, V (2012) for tax years 2008 and 2009. The trial court found that “there [could] be no serious dispute that the fundamental purpose of GSMR is to service educational loans” and that its only assets “likely to generate income are the loan servicing assets.” GSMR derived income from origination fees paid by borrowers, loan servicing and origination fees paid by institutions, and interest stemming from the education loans that GSMR administered. It used its income to pay expenses, for uncollectible loans and collection expenses, to fund loan default reserves, to "provide student[s], parent[s], and institution[s] information and counseling, . . . to pay for new educational loan related activities and services,” and to market its services. In 2008 and 2009, GSMR serviced approximately $2.5 billion in loans, earned a substantial net profit, maintained investments, and retained a surplus. The Supreme Court disagreed with the City that by virtue of servicing other lenders' loans GSMY was categorically ineligible for a charitable tax exemption, and affirmed the trial court with respect to denying the City's motion. The Court found genuine issues of material facts with regard to GMSR's motion, and reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Granite State Management & Resources v. City of Concord" on Justia Law

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Respondent Town of Danville appealed a Superior Court order abating "land use change tax" (LUCT) assessments issued to petitioners Maplevale Builders, LLC, Hoyt Real Estate Trust, and John H. and Maryann Manning, on the basis that the LUCT bills were untimely under RSA 79-A:7 (Supp. 2006) (amended 2009, 2010, 2012). Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the superior court erred in ruling that all of the lots of the subdivision in question changed in use in 2009, when the Planning Board granted final subdivision approval. Because the trial court did not follow the caselaw in its consideration of when each lot changed in use, the Supreme Court vacated its abatement order. The parties did not ask the Court to determine on appeal when each lot changed in use or whether the exception in RSA 79-A:7, V(a) applied. Thus, the Court remanded for a redetermination of when each lot changed in use, and whether in light of the change in use date, the LUCT bills were timely. The Court concluded that the amended version of RSA 79-A:7, II(c) applied to any notice or discovery of change in use occurring on or after April 1, 2009. View "Maplevale Builders, LLC v. Town of Danville" on Justia Law

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The City of Nashua appealed a New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) ruling that taxpayer Marijane Kennedy was entitled to an "elderly exemption" under RSA 72:39-a (2012) for the 2011 tax year. Upon review of the applicable statute and the facts on record in this case, the Supreme Court found that the BTLA erred in its interpretation and accordingly reversed. View "Appeal of City of Nashua" on Justia Law