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AGO 1952 No. 441 - December 19, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington


Statutory plan for making refunds of motor vehicle excise taxes is exclusive and may not be altered by administrative officials.

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                                                               December 19, 1952 

State Tax Commission
Insurance Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 441


             This is in response to your letter of November 24, 1952, relative to refunds in certain cases of motor vehicle excise taxes collected by the Public Service Commission.  You direct attention to the following pertinent statutory provisions respecting remittance of the collected excise taxes to the State Treasurer and the procedure required to obtain refunds of such taxes:

             "The public service commission shall account for and pay over to the state treasurer, at the latest within thirty days after it has received payment, the excise fees it has collected under this chapter, and the state treasurer shall credit the same to the motor vehicle excise fund."  RCW 82.44.070.

             "Whenever any person * * * has paid an excise tax imposed under the provisions of this chapter and * * * is entitled to a refund * * * claim for such refund must be filed with the tax commission at Olympia * * *.  If the commission approves the claim it shall notify the state treasurer to that effect, and the treasurer shall make such approved refunds * * * herein provided for from the motor vehicle excise fund and shall mail or deliver the same to the person entitled thereto * * *."  RCW 82.44.120.

            You observe that the present system of making refunds, which requires that warrants be drawn on the Motor Vehicle Excise Fund, is burdensome and expensive.  We quote as follows from your letter:

             "The State Treasurer is agreeable to revising this procedure by depositing these fees in a revolving fund and refunding directly from the revolving fund.  The net amount at the end of each year would then be credited to the Motor Vehicle Fund."

             You ask whether the suggested system may be adopted without amending the statute.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            It is the opinion of this office that your inquiry should be answered in the negative.


             The legislature, in compliance with the following mandate of the State Constitution, makes appropriations (for example, see chapter 3, page 23, Laws Second Extraordinary Session of 1951, in which is appropriation from the Motor Vehicle Fund for liquid fuel tax refunds) expressly providing for refunds of above‑described excise taxes from the Motor Vehicle Excise Fund:

             "No moneys shall ever be paid out of the treasury of this state, or any of its funds, or any of the funds under its management, except in pursuance of an appropriation by law; * * *."  Art. VIII, § 4 (Amendment 11), State Constitution.

             The statute definitely and clearly, without any implication of permission to the state treasurer to adopt at his option a different system, prescribes the procedure to be followed for making refunds of excise fees paid to the public service commission.  In the absence of statutory or constitutional authority therefor, the suggested revolving fund plan may not be substituted for the present system of making refunds of excise fees.

 Very truly yours,
Attorney General 

Assistant Attorney General

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