Northwestern Imp. Co. v. Henneford

Decision Date25 November 1935
Docket Number25891.
Citation184 Wash. 502,51 P.2d 1083
PartiesNORTHWESTERN IMP. CO. v. HENNEFORD et al.
CourtWashington Supreme Court

Appeal from Superior Court, Thurston County; John M. Wilson, Judge.

Action by the Northwestern Improvement Company against H. H Henneford and others, as commissioners of the state tax commission. Judgment for plaintiff, and defendants appeal.

Affirmed.

G. W Hamilton and R. G. Sharpe, both of Olympia, for appellants.

L. B da Ponte and Robert S. Macfarlane, both of Seattle, for respondent.

GERAGHTY, Justice.

The plaintiff, Northwestern Improvement Company, owns and operates an electric light and power system situate wholly within the confines of Kittitas county. Assuming to act under the authority of chapter 123, Laws 1935, p. 356, the defendants, composing the state tax commission, initiated proceedings looking to the valuation and assessment, for taxation purposes, of this electric system for local, as well as state, levies. The plaintiff, challenging the right of the defendants to so assess wholly intracounty property, brought this action in the superior court of Thurston county to restrain the defendants from further proceeding with the assessment.

In its complaint the plaintiff alleged that the defendants, as the tax commission of the state, assuming to act under the authority of chapter 123, had declared their intention 'to value and assess said property, beginning with the year 1936, as provided by section 7 thereof (page 363), and plaintiff alleges that defendants will, unless restrained proceed so to value and assess said property and to levy taxes thereon for said year 1936 and subsequent years.' This allegation is admitted in the answer of the defendants. After trial of the cause to the court, a decree was entered as prayed for, enjoining the defendants from further proceeding with the valuation and assessment of plaintiff's electric system. The defendants, who shall hereafter be referred to as the 'commission,' have appealed from the decree.

The commission asserts the right, in virtue of the authority devolved upon it by chapter 123, to value and assess, for all purposes, local as well as state, and to the exclusion of the assessing and equalizing officers of Kittitas county, the utility property of the respondent, although lying wholly within the county.

The respondent contends that if chapter 123 is construed to authorize the valuation and assessment of its electric plant, wholly intracounty, the act is in violation of article 11, §§ 5 and 12, and article 7, § 9, of the State Constitution, as construed by this court in State ex rel. State Tax Commission v. Redd, 166 Wash. 132, 6 P.2d 619.

Chapter 123 provides for 'the assessment and taxation' of the operating property of various types of public service companies therein enumerated, including electric light and power companies, by the commission. The term 'electric light and power company,' as used in the act, is defined to mean 'Any person owning, controlling, operating or managing real or person property, used or to be used for or in connection with or to facilitate the generation, transmission or distribution of electricity in this state, and engaged in the business of furnishing, transmitting, distributing or generating electrical energy for light, heat or power for compensation as owner.' Section 1 (Laws 1935, p. 356).

The term 'person' is defined to mean 'any individual, firm, copartnership, joint venture, association, corporation, trust, or any other group acting as a unit.' Section 1.

Section 7 of the act (page 363) requires the commission, beginning with the year 1936, and annually thereafter, to make an assessment of the operating property of all companies covered by the act, and between the 15th of March and the 1st of July, each year, to prepare an assessment roll, upon which it shall enter and assess the true cash value of all the operating property of each company, as of the 1st day of March of the year in which the assessment is made.

Section 14 (page 367) provides that the assessment rolls of companies assessed under the provisions of the act shall be reviewed, examined, and corrected by the state board of equalization at its annual September meeting for the purpose of equalizing the assessed valuation of the taxable property of the state.

Section 15 (page 368) provides that the value of the operating property of a company, as fixed and determined by the state board of equalization, shall be apportioned by the commission to the respective counties and to the taxing districts thereof, in accordance with a detailed plan embodied in the section.

Section 16 (page 370) provides that when the state board of equalization shall have determined the equalized assessed value of the operating property of each company in each of the respective counties and in the taxing districts thereof, in the manner provided, the commission shall certify such equalized assessed value to the county assessor of the proper county, and the assessor shall enter the company's real operating property upon the real property tax rolls and the personal property upon the personal property tax rolls of each county, together with the values so assessed, 'and the same shall be and constitute the assessed valuation of the operating property of the company in such county and the taxing districts therein for that year, upon which taxes shall be levied and collected in the same manner as on the general property of such county.'

Section 17 (page 370) provides that all property of any company, not assessed as operating property under the provisions of the act, shall be assessed by the assessor of the county wherein it may be situate, in the same manner as the general property of the county.

The case of State ex rel. State Tax Commission v. Redd, 166 Wash. 132, 6 P.2d 619, 622, involved the constitutionality of chapter 106, Laws 1931, p. 306, in so far as it purported to authorize the tax commission to revalue, reassess, and retax property in any county, 'whenever it shall appear to the tax commission from any protest accompanying the payment of taxes heretofore or hereafter filed with any county or state board or officer, or petition or complaint heretofore or hereafter served or filed in any court for or on behalf of such taxpayer and an investigation of the facts upon which such protest, petition or complaint is based that any error in taxation has occurred in the assessment or taxation heretofore or hereafter made of any property taxable in this state, and such assessment appears to be excessive or void in whole or in part.'

Proceeding under the authority of that act, the commission reassessed certain lands in Franklin county, suits contesting the original assessments having been brought in the superior court. The county assessor refused to enter upon the assessment roll the valuation fixed by the commission, or to use the valuation as a basis for computing and extending a tax against the land involved. Thereupon, the commission brought suit for a writ of mandate requiring the assessor to comply with the commission's order. Upon appeal, this court held chapter 106 unconstitutional, in so far as it attempted to authorize the commission to reassess, for local taxation purposes, property within a county or other municipal corporation. In reaching this conclusion, the court held that the statute violated the following sections of the State Constitution:

'The legislature shall have no power to impose taxes upon counties, cities, towns, or other municipal corporations, or upon the inhabitants or property thereof, for county, city, town, or other municipal purposes, but may by general laws vest in the corporate authorities thereof the power to assess and collect taxes for such purposes.' Const. art. 11, § 12.
'For all corporate purposes, all municipal corporations may be vested with authority to assess and collect taxes, and such taxes shall be uniform in respect to persons and property within the jurisdiction of the body levying the same.' Const. art. 7, § 9.
'The legislature, by general and uniform laws, shall provide for the election in the several counties of boards of county commissioners, sheriffs, county clerks, treasurers, prosecuting attorneys, and other county, township, or precinct and district officers, as public convenience may require, and shall prescribe their duties and fix their term of office.' Const. art. 11, § 5.

In the course of its opinion, the court said:

'Under the first part of the constitutional provision (section 12, art. 11), the Legislature is shorn of its power to impose taxes for county purposes. What then? How could the county exist without funds and without the power to raise funds to meet its necessary expenses? If it were not for the second part of the constitutional provision investing the Legislature with a portion of the power of which it had been divested, it is clear that the Legislature could not delegate a power it did not have. If the Legislature were without power to impose taxes for county purposes, plainly, it could not delegate the power to any person, board, or corporation.

'By the second part of section 12, article 11, of the Constitution it is provided that the Legislature may, by general laws, vest in the corporate authorities of counties, cities, and other municipal corporations authority to assess and collect taxes for local purposes. Pursuant thereto the Legislature delegated to the counties, cities and other municipal corporations power to levy taxes by their local officers for local purposes. The only restriction upon the county's or municipality's power to taxation is that the taxes shall be imposed for public purposes only, limited to a certain rate or amount,...

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9 cases
  • Grosvenor v. Supervisor of Assessments of Montgomery County, 166
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • March 1, 1974
    ...and the estimation of the sums which are to constitute the basis of the apportionment of the tax . . .'); Northwestern Imp. Co. v. Henneford, 184 Wash. 502, 51 P.2d 1083, 1085 (1935) ("Assessment is the listing and valuation of property liable to taxation. . . ."); Broad & Sansom Realty Co.......
  • State v. Hanlen
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    ... ... 1181; In re ... Peterson's Estate, 182 Wash. 29, 45 P.2d 45, 47; ... Northwestern Improvement Co. v. Henneford, 184 Wash ... 502, 51 P.2d 1083 ... It is ... ...
  • National CSS, Inc. v. City of Stamford
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    • April 2, 1985
    ... ... [A]n assessment can only be made by the officer designated by law to make it." ' " Northwestern Improvement Co. v. Henneford, 184 Wash. 502, 508, 51 P.2d 1083 ... (1935). The plaintiff, by ... ...
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    • January 9, 1936
    ... ... [53 P.2d 750.] ... property. State ex rel. State Tax Commission v ... Redd, 166 Wash. 132, 6 P.2d 619; Northwestern ... [185 Wash. 196] Improvement Co. v ... Henneford (Wash.) 51 P.2d 1083 ... The ... case of In re Edge Ho ... ...
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