89-0175 - Centrally Assessed/Property






Petitioners, :


v. : ORDER



SALT LAKE COUNTY, : and 89-0175





Respondents. :



This matter came before the Utah State Tax Commission for prehearing conference on XXXXX, before Joseph G. Linford, Presiding Officer. Petitioners were represented by XXXXX, Attorney At Law. Respondent, Salt Lake County Board of Equalization, was represented by XXXXX, Special Deputy Salt Lake County Attorney, and by XXXXX, Appeals Specialist for the Salt Lake County Assessor's Office. Respondent, Property Tax Division of the State Tax Commission, was represented by XXXXX, XXXXX and XXXXX.

At the prehearing conference, Petitioner raised the issue of jurisdiction, citing a 1943 Third District Court case which declared the subject property exempt from taxation under certain conditions. Petitioner alleged that this decision renders the Tax Commission without jurisdiction to decide this case. Petitioner and Respondent were ordered by the Presiding Officer to submit briefs addressing this issue before the hearing on the merits in this matter begins. Such briefs have been submitted.

The court decision cited by Petitioner is East Jordan Irrigation Company v. State Tax Commission of Utah et.al., Case Number 64236 (Utah Third District Court 1943). Page three of that decision states:

The defendants and each of them...are hereby forever enjoined from levying or imposing or attempting to levy or impose any taxes upon the land hereinbefore described so long as they shall be owned and used exclusively for the purpose of protecting the canal and irrigation system of the plaintiff....

Petitioner asserts that this language precludes the Tax Commission from considering the taxability of the subject property so long as the ownership of the subject property and its use are the same as they were when the court decree was issued in 1943. Petitioner asserts that if ownership and use are still the same, then the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel would apply to prevent the Tax Commission from deciding this matter.

Respondent, County Board of Equalization, argues that the law has changed since the 1943 decision was issued. Respondent cites the Utah State Constitution, Article XIII, Section 2, which lists certain types of properties that are exempt from taxation.

Respondent argues that the subject property does not fall within any of those exemptions. Additionally, Respondent argues that pursuant to Utah Code Ann. 59-2-303 all property in the state is required to be assessed annually to its owner, and issues of use, ownership and entitlement to exemption arise anew every year. Therefore a court decision rendered in 1943 cannot grant an exemption in perpetuity since a property's exempt status is in issue for each tax year.

Petitioner argues in response that legislative action occurring subsequent to the 1943 court ruling cannot alter the provisions of that ruling under the constitutional prohibition against the enactment of ex post facto laws.

The Tax Commission does have authority and jurisdiction to decide this matter. There are factual questions concerning the ownership and use of the subject property. If either ownership or use is different than in 1943, then that court decree, by its own terms, would no longer apply. The Tax Commission must make this factual determination in order to decide at least the applicability and affect of the 1943 decision.

The Tax Commission also has authority to determine if there has been a change in the applicable provisions of the Constitution of the State of Utah and state statutes since 1943. Since the question of the taxability of the subject property is at issue for every tax year, the prohibition against ex post facto laws does not apply in this case, especially since there are no punishments or penalties at issue to which the ex post facto prohibition would apply.


Based upon the foregoing, it is the order of the Utah State Tax Commission that the Commission does have jurisdiction to hear and decide this case, and the case shall proceed to formal hearing at the date and time set in the prehearing conference. Additional briefs on the merits of the case, if the parties desire to submit any, shall also be submitted in accordance tieh the schedule established at the prehearing conference. It is so ordered.

DATED this 4 day of December, 1989.

Joseph G. Linford

Presiding Officer