Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGLO 1971 No. 107 -
Attorney General Slade Gorton

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
                                                              September 13, 1971
Honorable Elmer C. Huntley
State Senator, Ninth District
Thornton, Washington 99176
                                                                                          Cite as:  AGLO 1971 No. 107 (not official)
Dear Sir:
            This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion on a matter arising under the provisions of §§ 4 and 5 of chapter 288, Laws of 1971, 1st Ex. Sess.
            By its enactment of the first of these two sections the Washington legislature, exercising the authority granted to it by Article VII, § 10 (Amendment 47) of our state constitution,1/enacted the following tax exemption provisions:
            "A person shall be exempt from any legal obligation to pay a percentage of the amount of real property taxes due and payable in 1972 and subsequent years as the result of the levy of additional taxes in excess of regular property tax levies as that term is defined in section 13 of this 1971 amendatory act, as now or hereafter amended, and/or from such regular property tax levies in accordance  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] with the following conditions:
            "(1) The property taxes must have been imposed upon a residence which has been regularly occupied by the person claiming the exemption during the two calendar years preceding the year in which the exemption claim is filed; or the property taxes must have been imposed upon a residence which has been regularly occupied by the person claiming the exemption during the preceding calendar year and the person claiming the exemption must also have been a resident of the state of Washington for the last three calendar years preceding the year in which the claim is filed.
            "(2) The person claiming the exemption must have owned, at the time of filing, in fee, or by contract purchase, the residence on which the property taxes have been imposed.  For purposes of this subsection, a residence owned by a marital community shall be deemed to be owned by each spouse.
            "(3) The person claiming the exemption must have been sixty-two years of age or older on January 1st of the year in which the exemption claim is filed, or must have been, at the time of filing, retired from regular gainful employment by reason of physical disability.
            "(4) No person who, during the preceding calendar year, has regularly occupied the residence on which the taxes have been imposed shall have received during the preceding calendar year any earnings of the type and amount which would cause any deduction from social security benefits for a recipient of such benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 403 as in effect on the effective date of this 1971 amendatory act:  PROVIDED, That the earnings of any occupant living with and paying rent to the person claiming exemption shall not be included in the determination of the eligibility of such person for the exemption.
            "(5) The amount that the person shall be exempt from an obligation to pay shall be calculated, on the basis of the combined income, from all sources whatsoever, of the person claiming the exemption and his or her spouse for the preceding calendar year, in accordance with the following schedule:
             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
            "Income                                                                                                   Percentage of Excess
            Range                                                                                                            Levies Exemption
            "$4,000 or less                                                                                         One hundred percent
            "$4,001 ‑ $6,000                                                                                                  Fifty percent
            "PROVIDED, HOWEVER, That, solely with respect to a person within the income range of $4,000 or less, in the event that taxes due and payable include no excess levies or include excess levies less than $50.00, the amount of the exemption shall be $50.00 and the difference shall be attributed pro rata to regular property tax levies of each of the taxing districts.
            "This section shall be effective as to claims made in 1971 and subsequent years with respect to taxes due and payable in 1972 and subsequent years."
            Section 5 of this same act, after setting forth certain pertinent definitions, contains the following language with respect to the procedures to be followed in filing claims for the tax exemption provided for in § 4, supra:
            "All claims for exemption shall be made and signed by the person entitled to the exemption, by his or her attorney in fact or in the event the residence of such person is under mortgage or purchase contract requiring accumulation of reserves out of which the holder of the mortgage or contract is required to pay real estate taxes, by such holder or by the owner, 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 subject to perjury.

            "Claims for exemption under section 4 of this 1971 amendatory act shall be made annually and filed between January 2 and July 1 of the year in which the property tax levies are imposed and solely upon forms as prescribed and furnished by the department of revenue:  PROVIDED, That for 1971 such  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] claims shall be filed between January 2 and August 1."  (Emphasis supplied.)
            Your question, as we understand it, is whether there is any basis under this statute to allow a 1971 tax exemption claim to be filed with the county assessor of a particular county after August 1, 1971, in the case of certain taxpayers who are reported to have been out of the state during the preceding several weeks and failed, through inadvertence, to make a timely claim.
            We regret to advise you that this question, under the present statute, must be answered in the negative.  The critical language of the proviso appearing at the end of the above‑quoted portion of § 5, chapter 288, Laws of 1971, 1st Ex. Sess., is mandatory, as evidenced by the legislature's use of the mandatory word "shall."  The legislature, very clearly, has said that ". . . for 1971 such claims shall be filed between January 2 and August 1."  (Emphasis supplied.) No exceptions are expressed within this statute, nor anywhere else in any other statutes governing payment of property taxes in this state.
            However, while any filings after August 1, 1971, must thus be regarded as being of no legal effect under the present statutes, we are informed that the state department of revenue has counseled the various county assessors that they may, if they wish, accept physical delivery of late claims in order to maintain a statistical record which may be of assistance to the forthcoming 1972 legislative session should that session give consideration to amending the statutes involved.  See, copy of the department of revenue's news release of August 4, 1971, which is enclosed herewith.  Therefore, while the application to which you have referred cannot be regarded as being presently operative, your county assessor may, properly, accept it for the record and for any possible assistance which it may be to the legislature in reviewing this tax exemption program at its forthcoming session.
            We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
Philip H. Austin
Deputy Attorney General
                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/This constitutional provision reads 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."