Surviving Spouse Denied Veteran’s Exemption

by: Allan Zhang
25 Aug 2020

This recent Tax Court opinion by Judge Fiamingo involves a Veteran’s Exemption property tax claim available to a surviving spouse pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.30(b). As part of her claim, the plaintiff Jacqueline Brown-Carter supplied documentation of proof including proof of marriage to Dirk N. Carter, certificate of death, DD214 indicating his Vietnam War service, and a  certification from the Veteran’s Administration showing Mr. Carter was honorably discharged and 100% disabled. Brown-Carter also provided a deed for the property, however, the deed showed the property was solely conveyed to Brown-Carter and did not list Mr. Carter. The claim for exemption was denied as the veteran never had ownership of the subject property.

Brown-Carter appealed the denial whereupon the Borough of Lawnside filed its Motion for Summary Judgment. No opposition was filed in response. Thus, there was no genuine issue of material fact in the record and one party was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Here, the burden is on the party seeking the exemption to prove she is entitled to it. Abunda Life Church of Body, Mind & Spirit v. City of Asbury Park, 18 N.J. Tax 483, 485 (App. Div. 1999). In order to qualify for the exemption, an applicant must prove, inter alia, that he or she is 1) the surviving spouse, 2) the unremarried widow of a qualifying disabled veteran, and 3) that the deceased veteran was entitled to the exemption at the time of his death. Brown-Carter had to prove that the property was owned by and was the dwelling house of the disabled veteran. Here, Brown-Carter conceded that Mr. Carter did not have legal title and was never an owner of the subject property. Accordingly, the Court found that as Mr. Carter was not entitled to an exemption at the time of his death and Brown-Carter as his surviving spouse was not entitled to claim the exemption.

To view the full Brown-Carter v. Borough of Lawnside, decision click here.