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AGO 1966 No. 108 - October 03, 1966
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


TAXATION ‑- EXEMPTION ‑- PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ‑- APPLICATION OF TAX EXEMPTION PROVIDED FOR BY CHAPTER 168, LAWS OF 1965, EX. SESS.

In the event that H.J.R. No. 7 is approved by the voters at the November 1966, general election, the real property tax exemption made contingent upon the passage thereof by chapter 168, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., will apply on a prorated basis against all real property taxes due and payable in a given year on the basis of levies by the state and all of the various taxing districts against qualified residential real property; the exemption should not be applied solely or principally against the two mills allotted to the state for public assistance purposes under RCW 74.04.150 and RCW 84.52.050.

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                                                                 October 3, 1966

Honorable Henry Backstrom
Chairman, Legislative Budget Committee
Arlington, Washington

                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 65-66 No. 108

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested the opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            In the event that chapter 168, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., becomes law in the manner provided for by § 3 thereof, should the fifty dollar property tax exemption granted to certain persons by § 2 thereof be applied only against the two mills allotted to the state for public assistance purposes under RCW 74.04.150 and 84.52.050?

            We answer your question in the negative for the reason set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Chapter 168, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., is an act designed to implement the provisions of H.J.R. No. 7, a proposed constitutional amendment which is to be voted upon at the November 1966, general election.  The proposed constitutional amendment  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] provides as follows:

            "Notwithstanding the provisions of Article 7, section 1 (Amendment 14) and Article 7, section 2 (Amendment 17), the following tax exemption shall be allowed as to real property:

            "The legislature shall have the power, by appropriate legislation, to grant to retired property owners relief from the property tax on the real property occupied as a residence by those owners.  The legislature may place such restrictions and conditions upon the granting of such relief as it shall deem proper.  Such restrictions and conditions may include, but are not limited to, the limiting of the relief to those property owners below a specific level of income and those fulfilling certain minimum residential requirements."

            Section 3, chapter 168, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., provides:

            "This act shall become effective upon the approval of the voters of the state of an amendment to Article 7, section 1 of the Constitution of the state of Washington so as to authorize this form of exemption."

            For a discussion of the interrelationship between this implementing legislation, and H.J.R. No. 7,supra, see AGO 65-66 No. 99, a copy of which is enclosed.  In that opinion, we concluded that if H.J.R. No. 7 is approved by the voters, the real property tax exemption made contingent upon the passage thereof in chapter 168, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., will become operative without further legislation and will apply to the first fifty dollars of real property taxes due and payable against real property owned and occupied by an eligible claimant for the year for which the exemption is claimed.

            The proposed tax exemption itself is set forth in § 2, chapter 168, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., as follows:

            "The following persons, as heads of households, shall be exempt from the first fifty dollars of real property taxes due and payable in any one year, provided they come within the following provisions:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "(1) A male head of a household shall be sixty-five years of age or older prior to February 15th of the year in which the real property is assessed and the taxes levied thereon;

            "(2) A female head of a household shall be sixty-two years of age or older prior to February 15th of the year in which the real property is assessed and the taxes levied thereon;

            "(3) The person claiming exemption shall have owned, either in fee or by contract purchase, the real property for which the exemption is claimed for at least five years or have been a resident of the state of Washington for at least ten years if not qualified under the five year ownership limitation;

            "(4) A claim for exemption can only be made for a single family dwelling;

            "(5) Said single family dwelling as provided in subsection (4) above cannot be permanently occupied by anyone who is not solely dependent upon the head of the household for his support;

            "(6) The head of the household and spouse shall be retired from all gainful employment for at least one year prior to application for such exemption and shall not be actively engaged in any type of business;

            "(7) The combined income of the head of the household and his spouse, from all sources whatsoever, shall not be in excess of three thousand dollars ($3,000) for the calendar year immediately preceding the year in which the real property is assessed and the taxes levied thereon.

            "(8) All claims for exemption shall be made and signed either before a notary public or the county assessor or his deputy in the county where the real property is located.  Any person signing a false claim shall be  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] subject to either civil or criminal perjury;

            "(9) Claims for exemption shall be made annually and solely upon forms as prescribed by the Washington State Association of County Assessors;

            "Head of a household, as used in this section, may be any of the following:  A married person, a single person, a widow or widower, a divorce or divorcee, provided they are the sole support of the household."

            Your question, repeated for ease of reference, is whether this fifty dollar tax exemption is to be deducted solely or principally from the two mill tax levy allotted to the state for public assistance purposes under RCW 74.04.150 and RCW 84.52.050.1/

             Read as a whole, chapter 168, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess.,supra, would simply exempt certain qualified persons from paying ". . . the first fifty dollars of real property taxes due and payable in any one year, . . ."  The statute contains no indication of legislative intent that the exemption is to operate either solely or principally against the two mills allotted to the state for public assistance.  As a matter of fact, the statute is silent as to the question of how the exemption is to be applied, except to the extent that the exemption is characterized as covering "the first fifty dollars of real property taxes due and payable in any one year."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            Under these circumstances, we can see no basis for concluding that the exemption is to be applied solely, or first, against the state's two mills.  In the absence of any expression of legislative intent to this effect, it logically follows, and we conclude, that proper application of the fifty dollar exemption‑-in the event that chapter 168, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess.,supra, becomes law‑- would be on a prorated basis against all real property taxes due and payable in a given year as a consequence of levies by the state and all of the various taxing districts against qualified residential real property.2/


             We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

HENRY H. WAGER
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/RCW 74.04.150 provides as follows:

            "The state shall levy annually a tax not to exceed two mills upon the assessed valuation of all taxable property within the state for public assistance purposes."

            RCW 84.52.050 simply allots this millage to the state as its share of the forty mills to which the state and all its taxing districts are limited by the 17th Amendment to our constitution.

2/By "qualified residential real property," we simply mean such real property as comes within the purview of the proposed tax exemption by reasons of the several provisions of § 2, chapter 168, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess., quoted above.

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