Lee v. Douglas Cnty. Tax Collector, TC-MD 220384R

CourtOregon Tax Court
Writing for the CourtRichard Davis, Magistrate Judge
PartiesJANET H. LEE, Plaintiff, v. DOUGLAS COUNTY TAX COLLECTOR, Defendant.
Docket NumberTC-MD 220384R,TC-MD 220385R
Decision Date22 November 2022

JANET H. LEE, Plaintiff,
v.

DOUGLAS COUNTY TAX COLLECTOR, Defendant.

Nos. TC-MD 220384R, TC-MD 220385R

Tax Court of Oregon, Magistrate Division, Property Tax

November 22, 2022


ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

Richard Davis, Magistrate Judge

Plaintiff appeals Defendant's denial of a property tax discount, the imposition of interest, and two returned payment fees for the 2021-22 tax year. This matter came before the court on Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Motion), filed August 23, 2022. During the case management conference held September 8, 2022, Plaintiff agreed to file a response to Defendant's motion by September 22, 2022. Plaintiff filed her letter in response (Response) to Defendant's Motion on September 8, 2022, and an additional letter on September 22, 2022.

I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

Plaintiff owns property in Douglas County, Oregon, identified as Accounts R42964 and R54417 (subject property). (Ans at 3.) On November 15, 2021, using Defendant's online electronic payment system, Plaintiff attempted to pay the subject property tax, so that she could take advantage of the statutorily provided three percent discount for paying in full, on or before November 15. (See Compl at 2.) At 7:39 PM on November 15, Plaintiff received an email confirmation of her payment of $3,049. (Id. at 3.)[1]

On November 19, 2021, Defendant notified Plaintiff via email that her payment had been

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returned because the bank account from which she attempted to pay was frozen. (Compl at 4.)[2]That same day, Plaintiff submitted new payments using a different bank account and received an accompanying email confirmation of such payment. (Id. at 5.)

On January 31, 2022, Defendant notified Plaintiff by letter that she had been charged a $25 returned payment fee per account, due to her returned payments on November 15. (Ans at 3.) On April 26, 2022, Defendant mailed Plaintiff two installment notices, each of which indicating that the corresponding tax account had not yet accrued any interest. (Ptf's Ltr, Sept 22, 2022.) In May of 2022, Defendant again mailed Plaintiff a letter stating that she was ineligible for the discount, that she remained responsible for the two returned payment fees, and charging her interest. (Compl at 2.)

In her complaint, Plaintiff alleged that she called Defendant numerous times between November and December of 2021 and that Defendant told her that she had not been charged any additional fees and that she did not overpay. (Compl at 2.) However, also in her complaint, Plaintiff admitted that the payment "mistake was from the account [she] closed in January 22." (Id.)

II. ANALYSIS

Although motions for judgment on the pleadings are generally not favored by the courts, such motions may be useful "when the answering party admits all material facts in a pleading and denies only legal conclusions." Buras v. Dept. of Rev., 17 OTR 282, 284 (2004), aff'd, 338 Or. 12, 104 P.3d 1145 (2005). This court has previously stated:

"To withstand judgment on the pleadings, a taxpayer must allege the existence of facts that, within an articulated legal position, provide a basis for relief to a
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taxpayer. For example, where a taxpayer claims that an item of income is exempt or excluded from income, a taxpayer must allege: (1) a legal framework establishing the exemption or exclusion, and (2) facts that, if true, would satisfy the burden of proving the factual elements of the exemption or exclusion."

Beeler v. Dept. of Rev., 18 OTR 456, 458 (2006) (internal quotations and citation omitted). In ruling on Defendant's Motion, the court assumes that all of the well-pleaded facts in Plaintiff's complaint are true.[3]

The issues presented are (1) whether Plaintiff is entitled to a property tax discount under ORS 311.505, (2) whether Plaintiff is liable for the returned payment fees, and (3) whether Plaintiff is liable for the accrued interest.[4]

A. Discount

ORS 311.505 states, in pertinent part, that a one-third payment of property taxes owed is due on or before November 15 of each year. ORS 311.505(1). Payments of two-thirds or more, made on or before November 15, are entitled to a discount. ORS 311.505(3). A two-thirds payment is entitled to a two percent discount. ORS 311.505(3)(a). Full payments are entitled to a three percent discount. ORS 311.505(3)(b). "There is no statutory requirement that the county assessor or tax collector notify a taxpayer that the deadline to qualify for the three percent discount has passed." O'Neill v. Multnomah Cty. Assessor, TC-MD 110957D, WL 851666 at *2 (Or Tax M Div, Mar 13, 2012).

In Kusuma v. Washington County Assessor, TC-MD 210022R, WL 100005 at *1 (Or Tax M Div, Jan 11, 2022),

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the taxpayers attempted to pay the subject property tax online, on November 11, 2020, to take advantage of the three percent discount, but mistakenly entered the tax account number in the bank account number field, so their payment was rejected by the bank on November 18. The taxpayers were not made aware of the failed payment until November 19. Id. Among other things, the taxpayers argued that they would have been eligible for the discount but for the defendant's delay in notifying them of the failed payment. Id. at *2. Recognizing that "[t]his court has long held it is ultimately the responsibility of the property owner to see that the taxes are paid[,]" the court found that the taxpayers did not meet their burden of proof in establishing that they were eligible for the discount. Id. at *4 (internal quotations and citation omitted). The court further noted that even if the defendant had notified the taxpayers earlier of their failed payment, the taxpayers still would not have been eligible for the discount because the defendant's payment processor itself was not notified of the rejection from the taxpayers' bank until November...

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