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Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. v. Colfax County Bd. of Equalization

Supreme Court of Nebraska

April 17, 2015

CARGILL MEAT SOLUTIONS CORPORATION, APPELLEE,
v.
COLFAX COUNTY BOARD OF EQUALIZATION, APPELLANT

Page 719

Appeal fro the Tax Equalization and Review Commission.

Edmond E. Talbot III, Special Colfax County Attorney, for appellant.

Timothy L. Moll and Christopher C. Cassiday, of Rembolt Ludtke, L.L.P., for appellee.

HEAVICAN, C.J., WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, STEPHAN, McCORMACK, MILLER-LERMAN, AND CASSEL, JJ.

OPINION

Page 720

[290 Neb. 727] Cassel, J.

I. INTRODUCTION

A taxpayer timely filed a 2010 personal property tax return properly listing the taxable property, but the property was not placed on the tax rolls. The primary issue in this appeal is whether in 2013, the Colfax County Board of Equalization (Board) had statutory authority to add the property to the 2010 tax rolls. The Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC) considered and rejected two statutory [290 Neb. 728] sources of authority, but the Board assigns error only as to one statute.[1]

Because § 77-1507(1) applies only to real estate and not to personal property, it did not authorize the Board's action. Without supporting statutory authority, the action was void. We therefore affirm TERC's decision reversing and vacating the Board's decision.

II. BACKGROUND

1. Taxation Of Personal Property

Under Nebraska law, the owner of personal property must compile a list of all its tangible personal property having a tax situs in Nebraska.[2] The list must be on

Page 721

the forms prescribed by the Department of Revenue's Tax Commissioner and must be filed as a personal property tax return on or before May 1 of each year.[3] A party seeking a personal property exemption shall file a claim on the form and supporting schedules prescribed by the Tax Commissioner.[4]

The county assessor reviews the personal property tax returns and changes the reported valuation of any item of taxable tangible personal property to conform the valuation to net book value.[5] The assessor also lists any item of taxable tangible personal property omitted from a personal property return and values the item at net book value.[6]

2. 2010 Personal Property Tax Return

Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation (Cargill) timely filed a personal property tax return for the 2010 tax year. As part of that return, Cargill submitted personal property schedules to the Colfax County assessor's office identifying numerous items [290 Neb. 729] of personal property. One of the schedules showed the assessed value of the property to be $18,382,151. The assessor accepted the return.

However, the personal property was not placed on the tax rolls in 2010, and no tax was assessed or paid. Because of an evidentiary ruling by TERC excluding an exhibit, the record sheds little light on the procedures followed or overlooked in 2010.

3. Action by Board

In October 2013, the Board sent a letter to Cargill stating that it was placing the personal property identified by Cargill in 2010 " back on the tax rolls." The Board's letter asserted that the assessor had " held the personal property schedule . . . pending an approval of the exemption," that no exemption had been authorized, and that the property had not been " placed back" on the tax rolls in 2010 due to a " clerical error." The letter " [gave] notice" that " [p]ursuant to . . . § 77-1507(1)," the property would be " placed back on the tax rolls for collection."

Cargill filed a protest of the Board's action, but the Board denied the protest. Cargill then appealed. Pursuant to § 77-1507(3), the appeal from the Board's denial of the protest was taken to TERC.

4. TERC's Hearing And Decision

Pursuant to the rules of practice and procedure for hearings before TERC, the chairperson issued an order to show cause and notice of hearing which directed the parties to participate in a hearing and show cause regarding jurisdiction.[7] The order stated in part: " [TERC] does not have jurisdiction to hear an appeals [sic] if: [TERC] does not have the power or authority to hear the appeal [if] the Board of Equalization does not have the authority to act."

During the show cause hearing before TERC, the Board sought to introduce into evidence an order of the Department of Revenue's Tax Commissioner concerning Cargill's 2011 [290 Neb. 730] tax return. TERC sustained Cargill's objection to the exhibit, noting that it had not been exchanged in advance ...


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