Newberry Mills, Inc. v. Dawkins, No. 19449

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Citation190 S.E.2d 503,259 S.C. 7
PartiesNEWBERRY MILLS, INC., and all other Taxpayers similarly situated, Appellants, v. J. Ray DAWKINS, Treasurer of Newsberry County, and Thomas F. Buzhardt, CityFinance Director and Treasurer of the City of Newberry, Respondents.
Decision Date06 July 1972
Docket NumberNo. 19449

Page 503

190 S.E.2d 503
259 S.C. 7
NEWBERRY MILLS, INC., and all other Taxpayers similarly
situated, Appellants,
J. Ray DAWKINS, Treasurer of Newsberry County, and Thomas F.
Buzhardt, CityFinance Director and Treasurer of
the City of Newberry, Respondents.
No. 19449.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
July 6, 1972.

[259 S.C. 8]

Page 504

Eugene C. Griffith, of Blease, Griffith, Stone & Hightower, Newberry, for appellants.

Atty. Gen. Daniel R. McLeod and Asst. Attys. Gen. Joe L. Allen, Jr., and G. Lewis Argoe, Jr., Columbia, and T. William Hunter, R. Aubrey Harley, and James Verner, Jr., Newberry, for respondents.

[259 S.C. 9] Neville Holcombe of Holcombe, Bomar & Cureton, Spartanburg, amicus curiae.

[259 S.C. 10] LITTLEJOHN, Justice:

This action was brought by the plaintiff, Newberry Mills, Inc. and 'all other taxpayers similarly situated,' against the Treasurer of Newberry County and against the City Finance Director and Treasurer of the City of Newberry. The complaint expressly alleges that the action is brought 'pursuant to Section 65--2662 and Section 65--2663 of the Code of Laws for South Carolina for 1962 as amended.' These sections of the Code permit a taxpayer to pay taxes under protest and thereafter contest the validity of the tax by biringing an action for recovery of the amount paid. The lower court denied the relief. Newberry Mills (hereinafter referred to as 'plaintiff') appeals.

Throughout this opinion the term 'valuation' shall refer to the determination of the true value of the property, while the term 'assessment' shall refer to the determination of the tax value of the property.

Under our statutes manufacturers file their Ad valorem property tax returns with the South Carolina Tax Commission for the purpose of determining value for tax assessment. Most other taxpayers file their returns with the auditors of the various counties. Code of Laws of South Carolina (1962), §§ 65--64(17), 65--1502, 65--1644, 65--1647.1, 65--1752.

Plaintiff, a manufacturer, filed its return with the Commission for the 1970 tax year. In addition to the return, made on a form provided by the Commission, a copy of [259 S.C. 11] plaintiff's financial balance sheet was required. Using the return and the balance sheet, the Property Tax Division of the Commission found the actual value of plaintiff's property (realty plus personalty) to be $4,804,700.50. A tax value of

Page 505

$507,805.50 was assessed. This figure represents 10% of the actual value of the personalty and realty; it is the figure to which the millage or local tax rate is applied in order to determine the actual tax liability.

At a hearing before the Commission plaintiff protested both the valuation and the assessment. Plaintiff contended (1) that the ratio (10% ) used by the Commission was greater than that used by local Newberry County authorities in assessing other property in that county; (2) that the Commission's method of valuation made the assessment void.

The plaintiff did not present evidence of 'true value' to the Commission. The Commission overruled plaintiff's contentions and ruled that the figures indicated above should be certified to and used by the auditor of Newberry County in collecting taxes from the plaintiff.

An appeal as permitted by Chapter 3 of Title 65 of the Code, was taken to the Tax Board of Review. The Board found that plaintiff's real property had been assessed by the Tax Commission at 10% Of actual value, while other real property in Newberry county had been assessed at 5% Of actual value. The Board ordered that plaintiff's real property be assessed at 5% And that plaintiff's personal property be assessed at 10%. This resulted in a tax value decrease from $507,805.50 to $445,170. The actual value was left at $4,804,700.50. The values as determined by the Tax Board of Review were subsequently entered upon the tax rolls of Newberry County, and taxes for the county and the city of Newberry were levied thereon.

Plaintiff paid the taxes under protest and brought this action for their recovery in the Court of Common Pleas of Newberry County. (Code Section 65--2661 Et seq.) Plaintiff[259 S.C. 12] concedes that some taxes are due and asks that the matter be remanded to the Tax Commission for revaluation and reassessment.

The complaint attacks the constitutionality of the system whereunder plaintiff's property was taxed. It asks the court to 'declare the assessment void in its entirety and issue its order for reassessment.' It is based on the due process and equal protection clauses of the State and Federal Constitutions, as well as the following provisions of the Constitution of South Carolina:

'All property subject to taxation shall be taxed in proportion to its value.' Art. X § 3A (formerly Art. I & 6).

'All taxes upon property, real and personal, shall be laid upon the actual value of the property taxed, as the same shall be ascertained by an assessment made for the purpose of laying such tax.' Art. III, § 29.

'The General Assembly shall provide by law for a uniform and equal rate of assessment and taxation, and shall prescribe regulations to secure a just valuation for taxation of all property, real, personal and possessory, . . .' Art. X § 1.

'The corporate authorities of counties, townships, school districts, cities, towns and villages may be vested with power to assess and collect taxes for corporate purposes; such taxes to be uniform in respect to persons and property within the jurisdiction of the body imposing the same. . . .' Art. X § 5(1).

The basic questions for the determination of this Court are as follows:

I. Can a different ratio of assessment for taxation be applied to real property than is applied to personal property?

II. Is the assessment made by the Tax Commission as amended by the Board of Review, void because of the method used to determine the valuation and resulting assessment?

[259 S.C. 13] As noted above, the Tax Board of Review affirmed the 10% Rate set by the

Page 506

Commission on plaintiff's personal property, but ordered the rate on plaintiff's real property reduced to 5%. These are the same rates generally used by the county authorities in assessing personal property and real property. The first question therefore deals with the difference in rates used by the Tax Commission. Is it constitutionally and statutorily permissible to assess plaintiff's personal property at 10% And real property at 5%?

Plaintiff argues that the use of different rates of assessment is impermissible in view of the constitutional provisions set forth above. Plaintiff also argues that this practice violates Section 65--64(17) of the Code, which directs that the Commission 'shall assess and equalize all real and tangible property of manufacturers.'

We find no constitutional or statutory provision that prohibits the assessment of real property at a different rate from personal property. All that is required is 'a uniform and equal rate of assessment and taxation.' This requirement has been interpreted as follows:

'Generally, within constitutional limitations, the state has power to classify persons or property for purposes of taxation, and the exercise of such power is not forbidden by the constitutional requirement that taxation be uniform and equal, provided the tax is uniform on all members of the same class and provided the classification is reasonable and not arbitrary.' 84 C.J.S. Taxation § 36, p. 112.

The trial judge, relying on Morgan v. Watts, 255 S.C. 212, 178 S.E.2d 147 (1970), held that 'the provisions of Article 10, Section 1, do not prohibit the classification of property for tax purposes, therefore, the use of a higher ratio to determine the tax value for personal property than that applied to real property is not constitutionally precluded.'

The order of the Tax Board of Review requires...

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14 cases
  • Owen Steel Co., Inc. v. S.C. Tax Com'n
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 5 Marzo 1984
    ...his administrative remedies with the Commission and the Board of Review before seeking relief in the courts. Newberry Mills, Inc. v. Dawkins, 259 S.C. 7, 190 S.E.2d 503 (1972); Meredith v. Elliott, 247 S.C. 335, 147 S.E.2d 244 Since the enactment of the APA, the taxpayer has an additional a......
  • In re Mayfair Mills, Inc., C/A 01-08491-W.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Fourth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of South Carolina
    • 27 Noviembre 2002
    ...the taxpayer contesting an assessment has the burden to prove that the assessed valuation was incorrect); Newberry Mills, Inc. v. Dawkins, 259 S.C. 7, 190 S.E.2d 503, 507 (1972) (noting that it was incumbent upon the taxpayer to prove that the taxing authority's valuation of its property wa......
  • Albemarle Elec. Membership Corp. v. Alexander, No. 7
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 13 Diciembre 1972
    ...Carolina, Brandis, p. 108; Rodeo Telephone Mem. Corp. v. County of Greeley, 181 Neb. 492, 149 N.W.2d 357. The case of Newberry Mills v. Dawkins, S.C., 190 S.E.2d 503 (decided 6 July 1972) is closely analogous to instant case. There the plaintiff filed its information return with the South C......
  • Noisette v. Ismail, 1365
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    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
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    ...26 C.J.S., supra § 105 at 235 ("[A]n action for a declaratory judgment is not a suit in equity...."); cf. Newberry Mills, Inc. v. Dawkins, 259 S.C. 7, 190 S.E.2d 503 (1972) (an action brought pursuant to statutes permitting a taxpayer to contest the validity of a tax is an action at law); M......
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