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AGO 1950 No. 306 - July 21, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

TAXATION ‑- PERSONAL PROPERTY ‑- EXEMPTIONS ‑- BUILDINGS ON U. S. OWNED LAND ‑- TIME OF ACQUISITION OF LANDS BY U. S.

Buildings and other structures upon lands in taxable ownership on January first but in tax-exempt (United States) ownership later in that year are exempt from both real and personal property taxes being levied that year.

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                                                                    July 21, 1950

Honorable Maloy Sensney
Prosecuting Attorney
Benton County
Prosser, Washington                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 306

Dear Sir:

            We have your request for our opinion on the following question:

            Certain lands in your county in private ownership and subject to real property taxation on January 1, 1950, are being deeded to the United States Government.  These deeds provide that if the transferor removes the buildings and other structures within a certain time he may retain them as his own property.  May such buildings and structures be subjected to taxation for the current year as personal property?

            Our conclusion may be summarized as follows:

            Buildings and other structures upon lands in taxable ownership on January first but in tax-exempt (United States) ownership later in that year are exempt from both real and personal property taxes being levied that year.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Because of the acquisition of the lands by the United States Government prior to the levy, the same became exempt from real property taxation even though in taxable ownership on January first.  State v. Snohomish County, 71 Wash. 320, 128 Pac. 667.  Because the lands became exempt, the buildings and other appurtenances also became exempt due to their classification as real property (section 4, chapter 130, Laws of 1925 Ex. Sess. Rem. Rev. Stat. 11108), unless they may be taxed as personal property.

            The term "personal property" is defined at section 5, chapter 130, Laws of 1925, Ex. Sess. (Rem. Rev. Stat. 11109).  It includes buildings and other structures where the fee is in the United States, and, of course, includes such structures where severed from the land.  Personal property is listed with respect to its value and ownership on the first day of January in the year in which it is assessed.  Section 1, chapter 137, Laws of 1939 (Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp. 11112).  It follows that to be subject to personal property taxation it must be shown that the buildings were personal property on January 1, 1950.

            Inasmuch as the buildings were attached to the land and the land was in private ownership on January 1, 1950, the buildings cannot qualify as personal property.  Therefore, such structures will escape taxes being levied this year.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

C. JOHN NEWLANDS
Assistant Attorney General

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