Town Gets Taste of Own Medicine: Not Permitted to Pursue Counterclaim After Deadline
In an unusual case, a Tax Court judge denied a municipality’s attempt to file a counterclaim in a tax appeal almost two years after the statutory deadline for filing such a claim. Typically, municipalities file motions to dismiss taxpayer appeals with citations to case law and court rules which strictly enforce the prescribed filing deadlines. Here though, the property owner timely filed tax appeals for the 2011, 2012, and 2013 tax years, for which the municipality filed timely counterclaims seeking to increase the assessment in the 2011 and 2013 tax years. On February 14, 2014, the municipality filed a motion asking the court to permit it to file a counterclaim for 2012 because it had counterclaims pending for 2011 and 2013 arguing that the taxpayer would not be surprised or prejudiced by such a claim, and that filing the late complaint was similar to amending pleadings under other court rules which are liberally construed.
The judge held that N.J.S.A. 54:3-21(a) and R. 8:4-3(a) limited the time period within which a counterclaim could be filed. Additionally, the municipality’s amended pleading argument was rejected because there was no original claim for the 2012 tax year to which an amendment could be related, and that the court rules spoke of existing pleadings with underlined amendments. Based on the foregoing, the judge found the arguments unpersuasive and denied the municipality’s motion.
A copy of the Tax Court’s unpublished opinion in Rocky Top, LLC, v. City of South Amboy can be found here.
For more on how the courts have interpreted the tax appeal filing deadlines in New Jersey, please see the following blog posts: