President and Fellows of Harvard College v. Town of Ledyard, 24110

Decision Date20 June 1975
Docket NumberNo. 24110,24110
Citation32 Conn.Supp. 139,343 A.2d 649
CourtConnecticut Court of Common Pleas

Dupont, Dupont, Tobin & Williams, New London, for the plaintiff.

Suisman, Shapiro, Wool & Brennan, New London, for the defendant.


The plaintiff is a nonstock corporation organized under the laws of the commonwealth of Massachusetts exclusively for educational purposes and owning four parcels of land, with buildings and improvements thereon, situated in the town of Ledyard. Denied tax exemption for those properties or a reduction in their respective valuations by the board of tax review, the plaintiff instituted these proceedings 'appealing from the board of tax review of the Town of Ledyard and applying for relief against a wrongful assessment of its property for taxation.' (Italics supplied.) The first phrase is the wording of an appeal to the court under General Statutes § 12-118 from a board of tax review. See Practice Book Form 775. The latter phrase is that of an application to the court for relief under General Statutes § 12-119 against a wrongful assessment for taxation. See Practice Book Form 776.

The complaint cuts two ways. In the first count the plaintiff seeks a tax exemption. It claims that the denial of exemption because of foreign incorporation, when otherwise eligible, by our statutory limitation to Connecticut corporations is unconstitutional as violative of the equal protection clauses of the federal and state constitutions. The four additional counts seek a reduction in the respective valuations of the plaintiff's real estate. To this complaint the defendant has demurred on three grounds.

Alleged as the first reason for the demurrer is the misjoinder of two or more causes of action which cannot properly be united in one complaint. The issue arises over the nature of the first count, the remaining four counts being admittedly brought under General Statutes § 12-118. The plaintiff alleges in the first count (1) that it meets all of the requirements for exemption under General Statutes § 12-81(7), except that it is not a Connecticut corporation; (2) that it qualifies for exemption under General Statutes § 12-81(8), except that it is not one of the Connecticut colleges specifically named therein; (3) that the limitation of those two provisions to Connecticut educational institutions denies to it the equal protection of the law; (4) that it appealed to the board of tax review for exemptin; and (5) that the board made no change in the status of the property. The plaintiff contends that that count has been properly brought under General Statutes § 12-119. The defendant, colleges specifically named therein; being an appeal from the board of tax review improperly predicated on General Statutes § 12-118. The argument of the town is that any claim for tax exemption by an educational organization must be made under the procedure and provisions of General Statutes § 12-81 and that the proper remedy for a denial is the appeal procedure specifically provided therefor by General Statutes § 12-89.

Section 12-119 provides that '(w)hen it is claimed that a tax has been laid on property not taxable . . . or that a tax laid on property was computed on an assessment which, under all the circumstances, was manifestly excessive and could not have been arrived at except by disregarding the provisions of the statutes for determining the valuation of such property, the owner thereof . . . may, in addition to the other remedies provided by law, make application for relief to the court of common pleas . . . within one year from the date as of which the property was last evaluated for purposes of taxation.' In contradistinction to that procedure, an appeal from the doings of assessors must be taken first to the board of tax review under General Statutes § 12-111, and, within two months thereafter, to the court under § 12-118.

Section 12-119 involves matters dissociated from the numerous questions which may arise in the performance of assessors' duties and the revision of their action by a board of tax review and is concerned with only two of the matters which might be questioned by an appeal from the board to the court. The remedy provided is directed toward one thing only, an existing tax. Connecticut Light & Power Co. v. Oxford, 101 Conn. 383, 389, 126 A. 1. In the cited case, two separate actions were heard together. The first was brought under the provisions of Public Acts 1921, chapter 302, now § 12-119, claiming tha the plaintiff's property was not taxable and seeking a judgment declaring the assessment as of October 1, 1920, and the tax computed thereon to be void. No appeal had been taken to the board of relief from that assessment. The second was an appeal from the action of the board of relief refusing to reduce the plaintiff's 1921 tax list taken in the usual form to court under the terms of what is now § 12-118. The allegations of the complaint in the latter action were similar to those in the first complaint, with proper change of dates and further allegations as to the action of the assessors and board of relief. By stipulation the sole issue in each action was the taxability of the plaintiff's property. The trial court found the issues in both cases for the plaintiff and ordered the tax levied on the exempt property stricken from the taxable lists of the town. The defendant further was enjoined from collecting any tax levied on those items. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (p. 392, 126 A. p. 4), that the statute of 1921 was 'merely declaratory of existing legal and equitable rights; for can it be doubted that relief outside of that obtainable by appeal, would have been afforded as respects the two categories mentioned in the recent statute, that is, the absolute nontaxability of the property in the municipality where situated, and a manifest and flagrant disregard of statutory provisions.' (Italics supplied.)

Section 12-119 was not intended as a remedy alternative to an appeal to the board of tax review under § 12-111 and thereafter to the court under § 12-118, 'where the claim is merely that the property has been overassessed.' Cohn v. Hartford, 130 Conn. 699, 703, 37 A.2d 237, 239. It is directed to relief against the collection of an illegal tax. The proper judgment is not, as in the case of an appeal from the action of a board of tax review, that the valuations in the grand list be changed but that the tax sought to be collected is, in whole or in part, not justly due. State ex rel. Waterbury Corrugated Container Co. v. Kilduff, 128 Conn. 647, 649, 25 A.2d 62.

The purpose of § 12-118 gives it a broader interpretation. Its operation, although more restrictive in time limitation, is greater in scope than § 12-119. Connecticut Light & Power Co. v. Oxford, supra, 101 Conn. 389, 129 A.2d 1. Under the provisions of § 12-118, '(t)he court shall have power to grant such relief as to justice and equity appertains, upon such terms and in such manner and form as appear equitable.' Such authority of the court is invoked by an appeal to the board of tax review pursuant to § 12-111 of any person 'claiming to be aggrieved by the doings of the assessors' and his further appeal to the court under § 12-118 from 'the action of the board of tax review.' (Italics supplied.) No limitation is expressed in the statutes on the 'doings' of the assessors or 'action' of the board of tax review that become subject to judicial review under § 12-118. That broad power of review granted to the court by § 12-118 includes the determination of tax exemption after denial by the assessors and the board of tax review. Edgewood School, Inc. v. Greenwich, 131 Conn. 179, 184, 38 A.2d 792; see Institute of Living v. Hartford, 133 Conn. 258, 50 A.2d 822.

The appeal to the court from the board of tax review is in direct contrast to the action authorized by § 12-119. Under the latter, '(t)he proceeding is not an appeal, but it invokes an original jurisdiction vested in the Court of Common Pleas.' Mead v. Greenwich, 131 Conn. 273, 275, 38 A.2d 795, 797. An appeal from a board of tax review, while invoking the same equitable powers of the court, is governed by § 12-118. Hutensky v. Avon, 163 Conn. 433, 436, 311 A.2d 92.

There exist three statutory avenues for a judicial determination of tax exemption. The route by § 12-89 is limited to specific types of Connecticut organizations given tax exemption by § 12-81(7), (10), and (11) and required to file qualifying statements quardrennially with the assessors. Denial of exemption by the assessors is appealable to the board of tax review and from there to the court. Section 12-119 permits the adjudication of a claim for tax exemption by direct proceedings in court after evaluation for tax purposes by the assessors. One might call that the express route from the assessors to court without an intermediate stop at the board of tax review. Lastly, the court may be reached by general appeal from the action of the board of tax review within § 12-118 after a prior appeal from the doings of the assessors under § 12-111. Resort to § 12-119 to establish tax exemption judicially 'usually, if not invariably, furnishes a remedy alternative to an appeal from the board of tax review under § 12-118.' E. Ingraham Co. v. Bristol, 146 Conn. 403, 408, 151 A.2d 700, 703.

The plaintiff did not seek a tax exemption under § 12-81 because of its obvious exclusion from the listed classifications of tax exempt organizations. Not being a Connecticut educational corporation or college, the plaintiff does not fall within the qualifications stipulated for tax exemption of educational institutions. For that reason, § 12-89 was not available to it for these proceedings. The remaining alternatives, §§ 12-118 and 12-119, were initially open to the plaintiff for presenting to this court its claim for tax exemption....

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  • Kobyluck Sand & Gravel, Inc. v. Town of Montville Board of Assessment Appeals
    • United States
    • Connecticut Superior Court
    • November 15, 2016
    ...v. Town of Ledyard, 32 Conn.Supp. 139, 145, 343 A.2d 649 (1975). Proceedings under either statute invoke the equitable power of the court. Id., 144. The case was heard on August 30, 2016. The court heard the testimony of Matthew Kobyluck, Vice President of the plaintiff, Kobyluck Sand and G......

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