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AGO 1958 No. 214 - August 14, 1958
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


County assessor may require from a port district a full and accurate listing of all personal property it holds in storage on the assessment date regardless of whether such property is believed to be tax exempt.

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                                                                 August 14, 1958

Honorable R. DeWitt Jones
Prosecuting Attorney of Clark County
301 Court House
Vancouver, Washington                                                                                           Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 214

Attention:  Mr. Robert M. Schaefer, Deputy

Dear Sir:

            You have requested an opinion from this office as to whether personal property within this state on January 1, the assessment date, and in storage with a port district should be inventoried for ad valorem taxation even though such property may be tax exempt because of in-transit status.

            The answer to your question is in the affirmative.


            Section 2 of chapter 196 of the Laws of 1955 (cf. RCW 84.40.010), provides in part:

            "All property now existing, or that is hereafter created or brought into this state, shall be subject to assessment and taxation for state, county, and other taxing district purposes, upon equalized valuations thereof, fixed with reference thereto on the first day of January at 12 o'clock meridian in each year, excepting such as is exempted from taxation by law."

            Section 1 of chapter 137 of the Laws of 1939 (cf. RCW 84.40.020), provides in part:   [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] "All real property in this state subject to taxation shall be listed and assessed every year, with reference to its value on the first day of January of the year in which it is assessed.  All personal property in this state subject to taxation shall be listed and assessed every year, with reference to its value and ownership on the first day of January of the year in which it is assessed: . . ."

            To determine whether property in-transit or in storage for transshipment may be nontaxable, § 1, chapter 66, Laws of 1939 (cf. RCW 84.36.170), is applicable.  It reads in part:

            ". . .And provided further, That goods, wares and merchandise manufactured or produced in any of the territories or possessions of the United States situated outside the boundaries thereof, and all raw furs produced outside the State of Washington and brought into the state for the sole purpose of transportation through and to points without the state, while being so transported, or while held in storage in a public or private warehouse awaiting such transportation, shall be considered and held to be property in transit and non-taxable if actually shipped to points outside the state on or before April 30th of the first year for which they would otherwise be taxable; and the county assessor shall list and assess all such goods, wares, and merchandise as of January 1st of each year, without regard to any average inventory, butshall cancel any such assessment in whole or in proportionate part upon receipt of sufficient documentary proof that the identical property so assessed was actually shipped to points outside the state on or before April 30th of such year; but no such cancellation shall be made unless such proof be furnished to the county assessor before June 1st of such year.  A sale of or transfer of title to any such property, while being so transported or held in storage, shall not operate to defeat the intent or purpose of this proviso."  (Emphasis supplied)

            Also pertinent is § 1, chapter 67, Laws of 1939 (RCW 84.36.140 through 84.36.160), which contains similar provisions relating to grains, flour, fruits, vegetables and fish being stored in a public or private warehouse.  If exemption is to be claimed under these statutes, it is expressly provided that all personal property of the type contemplated therein must first be listed and assessed and whether such property is to be given in-transit status is determined thereafter.   [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] Aside from these specific statutes, all personal property should be listed for tax purposes regardless of whether it may actually be exempt.  RCW 84.40.180 provides that every resident of this state is required to list not only his own personal property but also all that is in his possession or under his control belonging to a nonresident of the state or county where the property is located.  Further, by RCW 84.40.050, a full and true listing of all property must be made by the assessor or by the owner, holder, agent or other person owning, holding or controlling any property, which listing shall include "all property that may or shall be deducted therefrom under exemptions."  See also RCW 84.40.130 and § 1, chapter 56, Laws of 1945 (cf RCW 84.40.190).

            The court's decision in Libby, McNeill & Libby v. Ivarson, 19 Wn. (2d) 723, 728, 144 P. (2d) 258 (1943), regarding § 1 of chapter 137, Laws of 1939 (Rem. Rev. Stat. Sup. § 11112, now RCW 84.40.020), and § 45 of chapter 206, Laws of 1939 (Rem. Rev. Stat. Sup., § 11265, now RCW 84.60.030), is particularly helpful:

            "'s 11112. . . . All personal property in this state subject to taxation shall be listed and assessed every year, with reference to its value and ownership on the first day of January of the year in which it is assessed: . . .'

            "'s 11265. . . . The taxes assessed upon each item of personal property assessed shall be a lien upon such personal property from and after the date upon which the same is listed with and valued by the County Assessor, . . .'

            ". . .

            "In construing and applying these statutes, chapter 67, and this constitutional provision, they must be read and considered together and with reference to the subjects and classes of property to which they relate.  Sections 11112 and 11265 are general statutes dealing with and relating to personal property generally subject to taxation in the state.  In the enactment of chapter 67, the legislature stated its purpose, as set forth in § 6 thereof.  It was recognized that annually there were large quantities of commodities, enumerated therein, that were transported in interstate and foreign commerce; that it would be convenient or necessary to store them for a time in a warehouse; and that under existing statutes they might become subject to taxation.  The problem of whether their interstate character was such that they could not be taxed without a violation of the Federal constitution, or whether they had come to rest within the state and no longer had an interstate status, would be ever present.  The revenue to be derived from their  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] storage in the state and the other benefits to be derived, no doubt prompted the legislature to hold out some inducement to the owners and shippers of such commodities to bring them to and through the state, and such inducement was exemption from taxation, provided they were again shipped out of the state when the purpose of their storage had been served.  It seems quite plain, therefore, that the legislature, while following the pattern of §§ 11112 and 11265, intended to and did provide for a conditional personal liability for the taxes assessed and a conditional lien on the commodities enumerated, subject to be defeated by the performance of conditions subsequent: the shipment of the property out of the state on or before April 30th and the furnishing of documentary proof thereof by June 1st.  In this way, the various statutes are harmonized and all can apply and operate in their respective spheres."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            And in Halferty & Company v. King County, 30 Wn. (2d) 561, 567, 192 P. (2d) 736 (1948), the court stated as follows:

            ". . . The legislature was clearly trying to work out identical procedures; and although in the amendment to Rem. Rev. Stat., § 11130, by chapter 66 of the Laws of 1939, the word 'provided' is not used as it is in chapter 67, the legislature intended (and the language used in chapter 66 expresses that purpose) that the assessments provided for should be valid, subject to cancellation if the goods, wares, and merchandise referred to therein were shipped out of the state by April 30th and documentary proof thereof was furnished before June 1st."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The language of the above statutes is mandatory in providing that the assessment shall be made.  The validity of the procedure to determine tax status, assessment subject to cancellation if the property is exempt, has been upheld.  Thereby, the answer to your question is clearly in the affirmative.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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