Wisconsin Elec. Power Co. v. Department of Revenue, 182

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Citation59 Wis.2d 106,207 N.W.2d 841
Docket NumberNo. 182,182
PartiesWISCONSIN ELECTRIC POWER CO., a Wis. corporation, Respondent, v. DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, Appellant.
Decision Date05 June 1973

Page 841

207 N.W.2d 841
59 Wis.2d 106
WISCONSIN ELECTRIC POWER CO., a Wis. corporation, Respondent,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, Appellant.
No. 182.
Supreme Court of Wisconsin.
June 5, 1973.

Robert W. Warren, Atty. Gen., E. Weston Wood and Allan P. Hubbard, Asst. Attys. Gen., Madison, for appellant.

A. William Finke, James D. Zakrajsheck and Carol A. Curran, Milwaukee, Robert H. Gorske, and Quarles, Herriott, [59 Wis.2d 110] Clemons, Teschner & Noelke, Milwaukee, of counsel, for respondent.

HEFFERNAN, Justice.

The recitation of the facts points out that, prior to the passage of ch. 206, Laws of 1969, property owners subject to the general property tax were exempt from assessment and taxation on certain air and water pollution-abatement property associated with the production of income. That exemption statute, sec. 70.11(21)(a), Stats., applied only to property subject to the general property tax, and not to public utilities, which are taxed on the basis of a special utilities tax imposed by ch. 76. Ch. 76, prior to 1969, therefore, did not afford the same exemptions to public utilities that were applicable to the owners of similar property under the general property tax laws. On November 16, 1969, sec. 76.02(10) was amended to incorporate by reference the exemption appearing in sec. 70.11(21)(a).

The narrowing question presented by this

The narrow question presented by this appeal is whether pollution-abatement equipment purchased and constructed by the Wisconsin Electric Power Company prior to 1969 under circumstances which would have afforded it an exemption from general property taxes, were they applicable, was exempt from public utility taxation for assessment periods subsequent to the passage of ch. 206, Laws of 1969. We conclude, following the plain and literal meaning of the two statutes, that the property in question qualified for that exemption and the exemption could be asserted upon the passage of ch. 206, Laws of 1969.

Tax exemptions are matters of legislative grace, and this court will not construe a statute to find an exemption where there is not clear evidence that such legislative grace was intended. It is the duty of one who would assert an exemption to bring himself within the terms of an exemption provision. Engineers & Scientists of Milwaukee, Inc., v. [59 Wis.2d 111] Milwaukee (1968), 38 Wis.2d 550, 553, 157 N.W.2d 572; Estate of Thomas (1957), 1 Wis.2d 402, 405, 84 N.W.2d 68. Taxation is the rule, and exemption from taxation is the exception which must be demonstrated by a clear expression of legislative intent. Alonzo Cudworth Post No. 23 v. Milwaukee (1969), 42 Wis.2d 1, 13, 165 N.W.2d 397; Evangelical Lutheran Church v. Shawano County (1949), 256 Wis. 196, 200, 40 N.W.2d 590. In Bethel Convalescent Home, Inc. v. Richfield (1961), 15 Wis.2d 1, 4, 111 N.W.2d 913, the court quoted with approval the following rule appearing in Madison Aerie No. 623 F.O.E. v. Madison (1957), 275 Wis. 472, 476, 82 N.W.2d 207, 210:

"Statutes exempting property from taxation are to be strictly construed and

Page 844

all doubts are resolved in favor of its taxability. To be entitled to tax exemption the taxpayer must bring himself within the exact terms of the exemption statute."

This court, nevertheless, has said in Columbia Hospital Asso. v. Milwaukee (1967), 35 Wis.2d 660, 668, 669, 151 N.W.2d 750, 754:

'However, a strict construction is nonetheless a construction, and an exemption statute need not be given an unreasonable construction or the narrowest possible construction. A 'strict but reasonable' construction seems to be the pithy and popular statement of the rule. . . . The difference between a liberal and a strict construction is best illustrated in those cases where the meaning of the language expressing the objective intent of the legislature is doubtful; in such cases, any doubt under the strict construction rule must be resolved against the exemption. Thus an exemption should be expressed in such clear language as to leave no doubt.' Accord: Engineers & Scientists, supra, 38 Wis.2d at page 553, 157 N.W.2d 572; Milwaukee Protestant Home v. Milwaukee (1969), 41 Wis.2d 284, 301, 164 N.W.2d 289.

Applying these principles, we are satisfied that a strict construction of the statute brings the pollution-abatement [59 Wis.2d 112] facilities of the Wisconsin Electric Power Company within the exemption. Sec. 76.02(10), Stats. excepts from taxation under sec. 76.13, 'treatment plant and pollution abatement equipment exempt under s. 70.11(21)(a).'...

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5 practice notes
  • Green Bay Packaging, Inc. v. Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations, 587
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • April 7, 1976
    ...Statutory Construction (Sands 4th ed.), sec. 48.07, p. 206. See also: Wisconsin Electric Power Co. v. Department of Revenue (1973), 59 Wis.2d 106, 114, 207 N.W.2d 841; Buehler Brothers v. Industrial Comm. (1936), 220 Wis. 371, 374, 265 N.W. 227; Pellett v. Industrial Comm. (1916), 162 Wis. ......
  • First Nat. Leasing Corp. v. City of Madison, 75-753
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • December 13, 1977
    ...all doubts are to be resolved against the exemption and in favor of taxability. Wisconsin Electric Power Co. v. Department of Revenue, 59 Wis.2d 106, 111, 207 N.W.2d 841 (1973). We, nevertheless, said in Columbia Hospital Assn. v. Milwaukee, 35 Wis.2d 660, 668, 151 N.W.2d 750, 754 [81 Wis.2......
  • University of Wisconsin La Crosse Foundation, Inc. v. Town of Washington, 93-1163
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • December 17, 1993
    ...grant of tax exemptions is for the legislature. "Tax exemptions are matters of legislative grace...." Wisconsin Elec. Power Co. v. DOR, 59 Wis.2d 106, 110, 207 N.W.2d 841, 843 (1973). In Katzer v. City of Milwaukee, 104 Wis. 16, 21, 79 N.W. 745, 746 (1899), the court Such statutes conferrin......
  • Owens-Illinois, Inc. v. Town of Bradley, OWENS-ILLINOI
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • June 17, 1986
    ...unless that construction is supported by clear evidence of legislative intent. Wisconsin Electric Power Co. v. Department of Revenue, 59 Wis.2d 106, 110, 207 N.W.2d 841, 843 (1973). In all problems of statutory construction, legislative intent is to be derived by giving the statutory langua......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Green Bay Packaging, Inc. v. Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations, 587
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • April 7, 1976
    ...Statutory Construction (Sands 4th ed.), sec. 48.07, p. 206. See also: Wisconsin Electric Power Co. v. Department of Revenue (1973), 59 Wis.2d 106, 114, 207 N.W.2d 841; Buehler Brothers v. Industrial Comm. (1936), 220 Wis. 371, 374, 265 N.W. 227; Pellett v. Industrial Comm. (1916), 162 Wis. ......
  • First Nat. Leasing Corp. v. City of Madison, 75-753
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • December 13, 1977
    ...all doubts are to be resolved against the exemption and in favor of taxability. Wisconsin Electric Power Co. v. Department of Revenue, 59 Wis.2d 106, 111, 207 N.W.2d 841 (1973). We, nevertheless, said in Columbia Hospital Assn. v. Milwaukee, 35 Wis.2d 660, 668, 151 N.W.2d 750, 754 [81 Wis.2......
  • University of Wisconsin La Crosse Foundation, Inc. v. Town of Washington, 93-1163
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • December 17, 1993
    ...grant of tax exemptions is for the legislature. "Tax exemptions are matters of legislative grace...." Wisconsin Elec. Power Co. v. DOR, 59 Wis.2d 106, 110, 207 N.W.2d 841, 843 (1973). In Katzer v. City of Milwaukee, 104 Wis. 16, 21, 79 N.W. 745, 746 (1899), the court Such statutes conferrin......
  • Owens-Illinois, Inc. v. Town of Bradley, OWENS-ILLINOI
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • June 17, 1986
    ...unless that construction is supported by clear evidence of legislative intent. Wisconsin Electric Power Co. v. Department of Revenue, 59 Wis.2d 106, 110, 207 N.W.2d 841, 843 (1973). In all problems of statutory construction, legislative intent is to be derived by giving the statutory langua......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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