City Tries to Dismiss Tax Exemption Case for Plaintiff’s Failure to Check a Box

by: Anthony F. Della Pelle
13 Oct 2016

The plaintiff in West Side Community Center v. City of Asbury Park filed an appeal with the Tax Court to claim an exemption on its property.  However, in its Case Information Statement, plaintiff had forgotten to check the box “Exemption/Abatement Claimed.”  The City filed a motion to dismiss the complaint since it failed to specifically plead an exemption claim and thus should not be permitted to pursue this issue nor should be permitted to amend the pleading.  Plaintiff’s counsel conceded that he was unfamiliar with the procedures given that he has never practiced before the County Board or Tax Court.  Nonetheless, plaintiff opposed the motion on grounds that this mistake was purely clerical and the City has not been harmed or prejudiced due to this error.checklist

The facts presented to the court showed that the appeal was taken from a petition to the County Board.  The County Board petition challenged the City’s denial of exemption/abatement for the property and it clearly designated the petition as an appeal for the denial of abatement or exemption.  It was evident based on the County Board filings that the exemption claim was the only issue to be addressed at the County Board.  Despite having omitted to check the box for an exemption on the Tax Court’s case information statement, plaintiff alleged in its complaint that it was a non-profit entity contesting the assessment of the subject property.

Despite having omitted to check the exemption box on the Case Information Statement, the Tax Court agreed with the plaintiff and denied the motion.  Although the court rules governing practice in the Tax Court require a claim for exemption to be specifically pleaded, it must also be incorporated with rules applicable in civil trial courts.  Based on the facts of this case, the City could not have been surprised or prejudiced by plaintiff’s omissions given plaintiff’s participation at the County Board and the City’s decision to file the instant motion two months after the complaint was filed.  Furthermore, the court noted that it “plaintiff’s intention to claim that the subject should be tax-exempt can be reasonably gleaned from the rider. . .”

A copy of the Tax Court opinion can be read here.