March 1, 2010
DEADLINE FOR PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT APPEAL
By: Mary M. Janicki, Research Analyst
You want to know whether a taxpayer has any recourse if he or she fails to appeal a property tax assessment by the February 20 statutory deadline.
The Office of Legislative Research is not authorized to issue legal opinions and this memorandum should not be considered as one.
The law establishes a deadline by which a taxpayer must appeal a property tax assessment. Under the provision that permits taxpayers to appeal property tax assessments to the board of assessment appeals, a taxpayer must submit a written appeal to the board by February 20 (or in the case of a motor vehicle assessment, he or she must refer the appeal to the board at a meeting during the month of September). A board of assessment appeals is prohibited from considering an appeal after that time.
A taxpayer who has made a timely appeal to the board can appeal the board's decision to superior court within two months of the board's notice of its action.
A taxpayer can bring an appeal directly to the court, but missing the statutory deadline does not constitute grounds for bringing such an appeal. The law allows a taxpayer to challenge a tax assessment directly to superior court only when he or she claims that the property tax was computed on an assessment that, under all of the circumstances, was “manifestly excessive” and there was misfeasance or nonfeasance in the assessment. Such a taxpayer can bring a direct action to the court within one year of the date the property was evaluated.
Courts have upheld the appeals procedures and deadlines for assessment challenges to assure municipalities' fiscal certainty and remove taxes as the subject of continual litigation. The courts' standard for hearing a direct application for relief is a claim of an illegal tax assessment.
DEADLINES FOR ASSESSMENT APPEALS TO THE BOARD
Under current law, if a taxpayer believes that an assessment is inaccurate, he or she can appeal to the board of assessment appeals in writing by February 20th (CGS § 12-111). The law establishes a strict deadline. Under CGS § 12-112, no appeal of a property tax assessment “shall be heard or entertained by the board of assessment appeals ... unless written appeal is made on or before February 20th.” OLR report 2005-R-0825 describes details of the assessment appeals process.
(The board meets during the month of September solely for appeals relating to motor vehicle assessments appearing on the preceding grand list. The taxpayer must appear before the board in order for it to consider the appeal, or give written authorization for someone to appear on his or her behalf (CGS §§ 12-111 and 12-112)).
APPEALS TO THE COURT
A taxpayer can appeal the board of assessment appeals decision to the superior court (CGS § 12-117a). Presumably, this applies to a case in which the taxpayer made a timely appeal to the board and disputes the board's decision, “claiming to be aggrieved by the action of the board….” The taxpayer has two months from the date the board's notice was mailed to file his or her appeal in court.
The law provides an additional remedy for a taxpayer to apply for relief directly to superior court. The claim must allege that (1) the tax was assessed on property not subject to tax in the town or (2) it was “computed on an assessment which, under all circumstances, was manifestly excessive and could not have been arrived at except by disregarding the provisions of the statutes for determining the valuation of such property” (emphasis added). The taxpayer must apply to the court within one year from the date of the property's last valuation (CGS § 12-119).
Cases cited and relied on in a Connecticut Supreme Court case, City of Danbury v. Dana Investment Corporation/Lot Number GO8065 et al. (249 Conn 1 (1999)), uphold the principle of a timely filing requirement for appealing a tax assessment.
A taxpayer who has failed to utilize the available statutory remedies [may not] assert, in an action to collect a tax…that the tax has not been properly assessed.…The rationale for this rule is the need on the part of the government for fiscal certainty. A municipality, like any governmental entity, needs to know with reasonable certainty what its tax base is for each fiscal year, so that it responsibly can prepare a budget for that year….Public policy requires, therefore, that taxes that have not been challenged timely cannot “be the subject of perpetual litigation, at any time, to suit the convenience of the taxpayer…A taxpayer who has not sought redress in an appropriate manner is foreclosed from continuing litigation outside [those] statutes” (at 14-15).
The language allowing a taxpayer to appeal to a court directly (rather than appealing the decision of the town's board of assessment appeals) was enacted in 1941. A 1946 Connecticut Supreme Court case stipulates that the remedy provided in Section 12-119 is not an alternative to an appeal from the board. “[T]he statute is intended to afford relief against the collection of an illegal tax” (Borough of Fenwick v. Town of Old Saybrook, 133 Conn 22, at 24-25).
Another Supreme Court case ruled that the right established by the wrongful assessment statute (CGS § 12-119) is one “accorded a taxpayer where there was misfeasance or nonfeasance by the taxing authorities or the assessment was arbitrary or so excessive or discriminatory as in itself to show a disregard of duty on their part” (Mary Cohn v. City and Town of Hartford, 130 Conn. 699, at 703 (1944)). A mere over assessment is not grounds for a challenge under this provision.