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AGO 1955 No. 117 - July 18, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington


Under § 19, chapter 139, Laws of 1955, all house trailers as defined in the act are taxable for the last half of the calendar year of 1955, and the proviso in § 19 does not limit the section in its application.

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                                                                    July 18, 1955

Honorable H. Dan Bracken, Jr.
State Tax Commission
Insurance Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 117

Dear Sir:

            By letter dated June 20, 1955, you requested an opinion of this office on the effect of a proviso in section 19, chapter 139, Laws of 1955 (Senate Bill No. 425).  The section reads as follows:

            "The first tax to be collected under this chapter shall be for the last half of the calendar year 1955.  No house trailer with respect to which the excise tax imposed by this chapter is payable shall be listed and assessed for ad valorem taxation in the year 1955 or any succeeding year, so long as this chapter remains in effect, and any such assessment heretofore made in 1955 is directed to be cancelled;  Provided, That for any house trailer upon which an assessment for ad valorem tax was not made in the year 1954 and paid in 1955, and any house trailer purchased or brought into the state in 1955, the tax hereunder shall be paid  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] for the last half of the year 1955."  (Emphasis supplied)

            It is our opinion that under section 19 all house trailers, as defined in the act, are taxable for the last half of the calendar year 1955, and the proviso does not limit the section in its application.


            Chapter 139, Laws of 1955, is a new law designed to effectively tax house trailers, which do not operate on the public highways of the state, by an excise tax in lieu of the personal property tax.  The ad valorem tax on personal property was the property tax affecting nonoperating house trailers prior to the passage of chapter 139.  The assessor in the first part of a calendar year assessed and listed the property for the ad valorem tax which was not collected until the following year.  The severe administrative problems resulting from this tax procedure relating to house trailers are pointed out in an opinion of the attorney general issued to E. C. Huntley, State Tax Commissioner, on July 28, 1953, AGO 53-55 No. 105.

            Chapter 139, Laws of 1955, makes the taxing of house trailers as a whole uniform in procedure and is designed to correct certain of the defects of the old system.

            In order to analyze the effect of the proviso in section 19 of the law, it is not only necessary to analyze the act itself but to particularly analyze section 19.

            Section 19 provides:

            "The first tax to be collected under this chapter shall be for the last half of the calendar year 1955 * * *."

            What is the meaning of"tax to be collected under this chapter"?  The tax to be collected under the chapter is atax on all trailers of the type designed to be used upon the public streets and highways which are capable as being used as facilities for human habitation, except trailers  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] licensed to operate on the public streets and highways and taxed as motor vehicles and trailers eligible to be used under dealers' license plates and taxed.  This part of section 19 designates the beginning period during which the tax is payable and the vehicles to be taxed.

            The proviso in the section does not limit the application of the tax for the last half of the year 1955 to those house trailers mentioned in the proviso.  To so construe it would be to make it repugnant to the first part of the section, which is general in its application, and to render it void.  SeeMcKnight v. Hogg, 55 Wash. 289, 104 Pac. 504, Writ of Error dismissed in 223 U.S. 748, 56 L.Ed. 640, 32 S.Ct. 534; Western Machinery Exchange v. Grays Harbor County, 190 Wash. 447, 68 P. (2d) 613; andState ex rel. Wilson v. King County, 7 Wn. (2d) 104, 109 P. (2d) 291.  The proviso then does not limit but merely specifies trailers to be covered by the tax which are already included in the section.  As such, it is no more than surplusage.

            By way of explanation of the proviso, the section, as originally drafted, made the tax collectible for the first time in the year 1956.  If the act had been enacted with the tax collectible in 1956, the proviso would have had a definite meaning, for the tax would then have applied to those house trailers which were not otherwise taxed in 1955 after the act became effective.  However, the act, as passed by the legislature, made the first tax collected to be for the last half of 1955 on all house trailers, as defined by the act, with the proviso remaining, and the proviso is therefore without effect.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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