Mann v. Board of Assessors of Wareham

CourtMassachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Writing for the CourtBefore HENNESSEY; LYNCH
Citation438 N.E.2d 826,387 Mass. 35
PartiesDavid B. MANN v. BOARD OF ASSESSORS OF WAREHAM.
Decision Date03 August 1982

Page 826

438 N.E.2d 826
387 Mass. 35
David B. MANN
v.
BOARD OF ASSESSORS OF WAREHAM.
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts,
Suffolk.
Argued April 8, 1982.
Decided Aug. 3, 1982.

Page 827

Joan A. Lukey, Boston, for taxpayer.

Joseph R. Grassia, Town Counsel, Wareham, for Board of Assessors of Wareham.

Before HENNESSEY, C. J., and LIACOS, ABRAMS and LYNCH, JJ.

LYNCH, Justice.

This is an appeal from a decision of the Appellate Tax Board (board) dismissing for "want of jurisdiction" three cases consolidated for hearing before the board. In the first case, the taxpayer challenged the refusal of the board of assessors of Wareham (assessors) to classify the taxpayer's cranberry bogs as horticultural land within the meaning of G.L. c. 61A (Agricultural Classification Act) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1976. In the remaining cases, the taxpayer challenged the assessors' refusal to abate his taxes for fiscal years 1976 and 1977. We reverse and remand the cases for further proceedings before the board.

Page 828

[387 Mass. 36] The taxpayer, David B. Mann, is the owner of several cranberry bogs in Wareham. The bogs are separated by Route 6, and are shown as two separate lots on the assessors' plans. The taxpayer filed two separate applications with the assessors for the classification of the lots as horticultural land under G.L. c. 61A for fiscal year ending June 30, 1976. These applications were denied and the taxpayer then filed a single appeal with the board from the two decisions of the assessors refusing classification.

For fiscal year 1976, the taxpayer also filed with the assessors two separate applications for the abatement of real estate taxes on the lots. The assessors refused to allow the applications and the taxpayer filed a single appeal with the board. For fiscal year 1977, the taxpayer repeated the process by filing two separate applications for abatement with the assessors and a consolidated single appeal with the board upon the assessors' denial of the petitions for abatement.

The answers filed by the assessors in the classification case did not challenge any procedural aspects of the appeal. The assessors filed no answer in the 1976 and 1977 abatement cases. Under the board's rules, this constituted an admission that the only issue which the assessors sought to challenge was that of valuation. 1

Two days after the consolidated hearing on the three cases began before the board, the assessors filed a "plea in bar" in the fiscal year 1977 case contending that the taxpayer had erroneously joined in one petition two separate decisions of the assessors denying two applications for abatement. On the third day, the assessors filed identical pleas in bar in the other two cases.

The board took all of the pleas in bar under advisement until June, 1978, when they denied the plea in the fiscal year 1977 case. In September, 1980, more than two years after the hearings had concluded, the board dismissed all three appeals for want of jurisdiction.

[387 Mass. 37] A majority of the board found that the dismissal was required both by the statutes governing such appeals and by "the long and consistent practice of the board in interpreting these statutes." The two dissenting members of the board thought that the decision of the majority was contrary to the requirements of the governing statutes and the opinions of this court. The dissenters said they were unable to find any evidence of the long and consistent practice referred to by the majority. The taxpayer not only urges us to reverse the board's decision but also requests that we remand, with specific instructions as to the weight that must be given to the guidelines established annually by the Farmland Valuation Advisory Commission (FVAC), pursuant to G.L. c. 61A, § 11.

We must decide whether, by taking a single appeal from two decisions of the assessors concerning similar and contiguous parcels, the taxpayer committed a procedural error sufficient to deprive the board of jurisdiction to decide any or all of the three appeals. Since we reverse the board's decision, we also consider the significance of the guidelines established annually by the FVAC under G.L. c. 61A, § 11.

1. Jurisdiction. The majority of the board relied on G.L. c. 58A, § 7 and c. 59, §§ 63, 64, and 65, the relevant portions of which are as follows. "Any party taking an appeal to the board from a decision or determination ... of a board of assessors ... shall file a petition with the clerk of the appellate tax board .... Where two or more parcels of real estate are included in one decision of a board of assessors, the appellate tax board in its discretion may require that each parcel be the subject of a separate petition " (emphasis added). G.L. c. 58A, § 7, as amended through St.1980, c. 572, § 12.

"Assessors shall, within ten days after their decision on an application for an abatement, give written notice thereof to the applicant" (emphasis added). G.L. c. 59, § 63, as appearing in St.1974, c. 288.

Page 829

"A person aggrieved by the refusal of assessors to abate ... a tax on a parcel of real estate, may, within three months [387 Mass. 38] after receiving the notice of the assessors' decision on an application for abatement ... appeal therefrom by filing a complaint with the clerk of the county commissioners ..." (emphasis added). G.L. c. 59, § 64, as amended through St.1975, c. 677, § 1.

"A person aggrieved as aforesaid with respect to a tax on property in any municipality may, subject to the same conditions provided for an appeal under section sixty-four, appeal to the appellate tax board by filing a petition with such board within three months after receiving the notice of the assessors' decision on an application for abatement ..." (emphasis added). G.L. c. 59, § 65, as amended through St.1975, c. 677, § 2.

From the italicized language in the statutes quoted above, the board found a clear indication of a legislative...

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6 practice notes
  • In re Vallis, Bankruptcy No. 87-10264-CJK.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • February 15, 1989
    ...amibiguities in taxing statutes are to be resolved in favor of the taxpayer and are to be strictly construed Mann v. Assessors of Wareham, 387 Mass. 35, 39 438 N.E.2d 826 (1982) and because the legislature provided an express means by which a corporate officer or employee\'s personal liabil......
  • Adams v. Board of Assessors of Westport, No. 09-P-324.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • January 26, 2010
    ...decision of the Appellate Tax Board is affirmed. So ordered. --------------- Notes: 1. Marilyn Adams. 2. See Mann v. Assessors of Wareham, 387 Mass. 35, 35, 438 N.E.2d 826 3. As to a change in use, G.L. c. 61A, § 12, inserted by St.1973, c. 1118, § 1, provides in relevant part that: "Any la......
  • Rice Eventide Home v. Assessors of Quincy, No. 06-P-1440.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • August 27, 2007
    ...taxpayer ... and all doubts are to be resolved in favor of the taxpayer" (quotations and citations omitted). Mann v. Assessors of Wareham, 387 Mass. 35, 39, 438 N.E.2d 826 (1982). Compounding the ambiguity in the statute were the decisions of the Board attempting to interpret the term, whic......
  • Plante v. Town of Grafton, No. 00-P-1138.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • October 7, 2002
    ...to harvest the concomitant tax benefits that the statute confers. See G.L. c. 61A, §§ 4, 6. See generally Mann v. Assessors of Wareham, 387 Mass. 35, 40-42, 438 N.E.2d 826 Under § 14 of c. 61A, should the owners of land so classified propose to discontinue using it for the classified purpos......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • In re Vallis, Bankruptcy No. 87-10264-CJK.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • February 15, 1989
    ...amibiguities in taxing statutes are to be resolved in favor of the taxpayer and are to be strictly construed Mann v. Assessors of Wareham, 387 Mass. 35, 39 438 N.E.2d 826 (1982) and because the legislature provided an express means by which a corporate officer or employee\'s personal liabil......
  • Adams v. Board of Assessors of Westport, No. 09-P-324.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • January 26, 2010
    ...decision of the Appellate Tax Board is affirmed. So ordered. --------------- Notes: 1. Marilyn Adams. 2. See Mann v. Assessors of Wareham, 387 Mass. 35, 35, 438 N.E.2d 826 3. As to a change in use, G.L. c. 61A, § 12, inserted by St.1973, c. 1118, § 1, provides in relevant part that: "Any la......
  • Rice Eventide Home v. Assessors of Quincy, No. 06-P-1440.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • August 27, 2007
    ...taxpayer ... and all doubts are to be resolved in favor of the taxpayer" (quotations and citations omitted). Mann v. Assessors of Wareham, 387 Mass. 35, 39, 438 N.E.2d 826 (1982). Compounding the ambiguity in the statute were the decisions of the Board attempting to interpret the term, whic......
  • Plante v. Town of Grafton, No. 00-P-1138.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • October 7, 2002
    ...to harvest the concomitant tax benefits that the statute confers. See G.L. c. 61A, §§ 4, 6. See generally Mann v. Assessors of Wareham, 387 Mass. 35, 40-42, 438 N.E.2d 826 Under § 14 of c. 61A, should the owners of land so classified propose to discontinue using it for the classified purpos......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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