Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1957 No. 7 -
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


Taxes assessed and paid on property previously escheated to the state may be recovered under the Small Claims Act.

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                                                                 January 28, 1957

Honorable John G. McCutcheon
Prosecuting Attorney
Pierce County
Tacoma, Washington                                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 7

Attention:  !ttMr. Keith D. McGoffin

            Civil Deputy

Dear Sir:

            This is in answer to your request for our opinion as to whether property taxes may be recovered under the Small Claims Act which have been assessed and paid on property owned by the state of Washington.  You state that after the property in question had been escheated to the state by court order, it was sold by the county at a tax foreclosure sale, and neither the county nor the purchaser was aware of the state's interest because there was no record of the escheat in the auditor's office.

            It is our conclusion that the taxes paid under the described circumstances may be recovered under the Small Claims Act.


            RCW 84.68.110 permits a taxpayer to petition the county assessor for refund of taxes erroneously collected as a result of a manifest error in assessment which does not involve revaluation of the property.

            It has been previously ruled by this office that a "manifest error" is one which may become clearly evident upon examination of any record of the county assessor or other public officer, upon which any assessment list is based, AGO to Tax Commission, December 8, 1947.

            You relate in your letter that the property about which the inquiry is made was escheated to the state by proceedings in the superior court of Pierce County.  The entry of a decree of escheat by the superior court would of course be a matter of public record and the decree would disclose the state's ownership of the property.  This being so, the error in assessing and collecting tax upon such property was clearly a "manifest error" within the meaning of that term as used in RCW 84.68.110.  It would therefore be proper to accept a petition for refund of such taxes in conformance with the Small Claims Act.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General