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AGO 1972 No. 13 - July 19, 1972
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

TAXATION ‑- REAL PROPERTY ‑- EXCISE ‑- MOBILE HOMES

(1) The owner of a mobile home which was affixed to a parcel of real property on January 1, 1972, and which had previously been placed upon the real property tax rolls of the county in which it was located pursuant to the provisions of RCW 82.50.180 (5) and assessed as such, is not liable for the excise tax on mobile homes imposed by RCW 82.50.020 for the calender year 1972.

(2) The owner of a mobile home which, although affixed to a parcel of real property as of January 1, 1972, had not previously been placed upon the real property tax rolls in accordance with RCW 82.50.180 (5) either because no application for such placement had been made by the owner or because the assessor had not discovered the mobile home and placed it upon the property tax rolls himself, is liable for the excise tax on mobile homes imposed by RCW 82.50.020 for the calendar year 1972.

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                                                                    July 19, 1972

Honorable Gary M. Odegaard
State Senator, 20th District
Star Route 1, Box 1A
Onalaska, Washington 98570

                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGO 1972 No. 13

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested our opinion on two questions relating to the taxation of mobile homes.  As clarified by subsequent discussions with you, these questions are as follows:

            (1) If, on January 1, 1972, a person owned a mobile home affixed to a parcel of real property which had previously been placed upon the real property tax rolls of the county in which it was located pursuant to the provisions of RCW 82.50.180 (5) and assessed as such, would such owner be liable for the excise tax on mobile homes imposed by RCW 82.50.020 for the calendar year 1972?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            (2) If, in the case described in question (1), the mobile home, although affixed to a parcel of real property as of January 1, 1972, had not previously been placed upon the real property tax rolls in accordance with RCW 82.50.180 (5) either because no application for such placement had been made by the owner or because the assessor had not discovered the mobile home and placed it upon the property tax rolls himself, would the owner of this mobile home be liable for the excise tax on mobile homes imposed by RCW 82.50.020 for the calendar year 1972?

            We answer question (1) in the negative and question (2) in the affirmative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Chapter 82.50 RCW imposes an excise tax upon the owners of "mobile homes" as defined in RCW 82.50.010, for the privilege of using the same within this state.  This tax is levied each calendar year at the current rate of 2% of the fair market value of the mobile home.  See, RCW 82.50.030, as last amended by § 1, chapter 144, Laws of 1972, Ex. Sess.

            However, certain mobile homes otherwise subject to this excise tax are exempt therefrom under the provisions of RCW 82.50.180.  This section reads, in material part, as follows:

            "The following mobile homes . . . are specifically exempted from the operation of this chapter:

            ". . .

            "(5) A mobile home which has substantially lost its identity as a mobile unit by virtue of being permanently fixed in location upon land owned by the owner of the mobile home and placed on a permanent foundation, subsequent to the removal of the hitch, wheels and axles of said unit, and with fixed pipe connections with sewer, water or other utilities.

            "Following the permanent placement of said mobile home as provided herein, and upon the request of the owner, made to the county  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] assessor, the assessor shall confirm compliance with the conditions of this subsection and if the unit so qualifies, the unit will be entered on the real property tax rolls of the involved county, and said unit shall be exempted from the provisions of this chapter from and after the date it is assessed as a part of the real property."

            In AGO 1971 No. 3 [[to Department of Revenue on January 14, 1971]], copy enclosed, we concluded that:

            "If a mobile home meets the conditions set forth in the first paragraph of RCW 82.50.180 (5), it is not necessary, in order for the unit to be placed on the real property tax rolls of the county in which it is located, that the owner thereof make a request to the county assessor for such entry."

            In other words, a mobile home which meets the conditions set forth in the first paragraph of this subsection may be placed upon the property tax rolls of the county in which it is located either at the request of the owner or by the assessor without such a request where the assessor discovers the situation and acts upon it.  However, until this in fact occurs, the mobile home necessarily remains subject to the excise tax (rather than an ad valorem real property tax) because the excise tax exemption only attaches under this statute ". . . from and after the date it [the mobile home] is assessed as a part of the real property."

            Question (1):

            Your first question assumes that at some time prior to January 1, 1972, this action was taken ‑ either by the owner of the subject mobile home or by the county assessor of the county in which it was located.  In accordance with the foregoing, once this mobile home was placed upon the property tax rolls under RCW 82.50.180 (5), supra, and was assessed as such, it immediately ceased to be subject to the excise tax.  Therefore, in this case, no 1972 excise tax is due.

            Question (2):

            In order to place your second question in proper focus, we  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] must now turn to certain changes in the law regarding the taxation of mobile homes which were enacted by chapter 299, Laws of 1971, 1st Ex. Sess.  By this enactment the legislature provided that commencing with ad valorem property taxes levied in 1972 for collection in 1973, all mobile homes ‑ irrespective of their physical status ‑ would be subject to the property tax rather than the previous excise tax.  Under this enactment those mobile homes which are permanently affixed in location upon land owned or leased by the owner will be subject to taxation as real property, and all other mobile homes will be subject to taxation as personal property.  See, §§ 70-74, chapter 299, Laws of 1971, 1st Ex. Sess.

            However, in recognition of the fact that property taxes levied in 1972 are not subject to collection in the normal course of events until the period between February 15 and April 30, 1973 (see, RCW 84.56.020 ‑ 84.56.050), the legislature provided in § 73, chapter 299, supra, that:

            "There is added to chapter 82.50 RCW a new section to read as follows:

            "The provisions of chapter 82.50 RCW shall remain applicable to mobile homes through December 31, 1972.  All mobile homes subject to the property tax shall be listed and assessed for the first time on January 1, 1972 and such tax shall be paid during 1973 in accordance with the laws of this state."

            The effect of this provision, of course, is to place all mobile homes on the property tax rolls of the county in which they are located as of January 1, 1972, ‑ and thus, any mobile home which was permanently affixed to a parcel of realty as of that date was then entered upon the real property tax rolls of the county.  However, because it was placed upon those rolls pursuant to § 73, chapter 299, rather than by reason of either the owner or the assessor following the procedures contemplated by RCW 82.50.180 (5), supra, its placement on the rolls did not have the effect of exempting it from the 1972 mobile home excise tax.  In other words, because § 73, chapter 299, calls for the continued application of the provisions of chapter 82.50 RCW to mobile homes throughout 1972, the status of this  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] mobile home, in so far as the 1972 excise tax is concerned, remains precisely as it would have been without the enactment of this 1971 legislation.  As we have seen above, a mobile home which, although affixed to a parcel of realty, had not been placed upon the real property tax rolls of the county in accordance with RCW 82.50.180 (5),supra, remains subject to the excise tax rather than the property tax.

            It is for this reason that although we determined your first question to be answerable in the negative (i.e., no 1972 excise tax is payable), your second question must be answered in the affirmative.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

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