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Strawberry Ridge Estates, LLC v. Gila County

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

May 26, 2015

STRAWBERRY RIDGE ESTATES, LLC, an Arizona limited liability company, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
GILA COUNTY, a body politic, Defendant/Appellee

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County. No. TX2013-000471. The Honorable Dean M. Fink, Judge.

For Strawberry Ridge Estates, LLC, Plaintiff/Appellant: Michael J. Harper, Harper Law Offices, PC, Mesa.

Gila County Attorney's Office, Globe, By Bryan B. Chambers, Counsel for Defendant/Appellee.

Judge Peter B. Swann delivered the opinion of the court, in which Presiding Judge Kent E. Cattani and Judge Lawrence F. Winthrop joined.

OPINION

Page 834

SWANN, Judge:

¶1 In this opinion, we hold that a property owner challenging a property tax assessment under A.R.S. § 42-18352(E) is entitled to maintain the action in tax court once the taxes are paid, without regard to the delinquency of the payment.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2 Strawberry Ridge Estates, LLC (" Strawberry Ridge" ), owns multiple parcels of real property (" the Property" ) located in a residential subdivision in Gila County (" the County" ). For tax years 2008 through 2011, Strawberry Ridge failed to pay real property taxes. The Gila County Treasurer (" the Treasurer" ) sold the tax liens on the Property to CCC& S Family Limited Partnership (" CCC& S" ).

¶3 In 2013, Strawberry Ridge and CCC& S applied to the Treasurer for removal of tax liens and abatement of property tax liability under A.R.S. § 42-18352. Their application alleged that under § 42-18351(1), the County had committed an error resulting in improper imposition of a property tax, because it had assessed the Property based on the incorrect premise that it had previously granted final approval for the subdivision.

¶4 The Treasurer denied the application, and Strawberry Ridge and CCC& S filed a complaint in tax court under § 42-18352(E). Strawberry Ridge redeemed the tax lien certificates, then filed an amended complaint. The County filed a motion to dismiss, which the tax court granted on the ground that Strawberry Ridge had no right to maintain an action under § 42-18352(E) because it had not timely paid the taxes as required by § § 42-11004 and -16210(A). Strawberry Ridge appeals.

DISCUSSION

¶5 This appeal presents a question of law that we review de novo, accepting Strawberry Ridge's allegations as true and resolving all reasonable inferences in favor of Strawberry Ridge. McDonald v. City of Prescott, 197 Ariz. 566, 567, ¶ 5, 5 P.3d 900, 901 (App. 2000). We liberally construe tax-imposing statutes in favor of taxpayers and against the government. Ariz. Tax Comm'n v. Dairy & Consumers Coop. Ass'n, 70 Ariz. 7, 18, 215 P.2d 235, 242 (1950). We avoid constructions that deprive statutes of meaning and effect. St. Joseph's Hosp. & Med. Ctr. v. Maricopa County, 130 Ariz. 239, 248, 635 P.2d 527, 536 (App. 1981). When the provisions of a specific statute are inconsistent with those of a general statute on the same subject, the specific statute will control. Ariz. State Tax Comm'n v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 116 Ariz. 175, 177, 568 P.2d 1073, 1075 (1977). In such circumstances, the specific statute is regarded as an exception to the terms of the general statute. Kearney v. Mid --Century Ins. Co., 22 Ariz.App. 190, 192, 526 P.2d 169, 171 (1974).

¶6 The statutes at issue in this appeal are A.R.S. § § 42-11004, -16210, and -18352. Section 42-11004, which falls within Chapter 11 (titled " Property Tax" ), Article 1 (titled " General Provisions" ) of Title 42, provides that " [a] person on whom a tax has been imposed or levied under any law relating to taxation may not test the validity or amount of tax, either as plaintiff or defendant, if any of the taxes . . . [t]hat are the subject of the action are not paid before becoming delinquent." Section 42-11004 is a general statute that establishes a general rule to serve as " an outline for the more specific statements which are later made." See Neil B. McGinnis Equip. Co. v. Riggs, 4 Ariz.App. 556, 558, 422 P.2d 187, 189 (1967). Both § 42-16210 and § 42-18352 are such " more specific statements," setting forth the requirements for specific types of actions. Section 42-16210 provides that the general rule ...


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