Relating to Real Estate
Sewer + Water Charges = Taxes (for Purpose of Jurisdiction)
In Brutus 630, LLC v. Town of Bel Air, 448 Md. 355, 139 A.3d 957 (2016), the Town of Bel Air imposed a charge on NVR Inc. d/b/a Ryan Homes (“NVR”) to connect sewer and water service to condominium units that it developed. Brutus 630, LLC (“Brutus”), assignee of NVR, filed a claim for refund of certain sewer connection charges pursuant to Local Government Article §20-113. The Tax Court held that the charges were not “taxes” and that it, therefore, did not have jurisdiction to consider the appeal. The Circuit Court for Harford County agreed. On appeal, the Court of Special Appeals affirmed. After granting cert., the Court of Appeals reversed.
The Court of Appeals held that Brutus may pursue its refund claim under the refund statute and rejected the narrow reading provided by the Tax Court that the sewer connection charges were a service, and not a tax, and that the refund statute was therefore inapplicable. Further the court held that Brutus’s claim is not barred by the voluntary payment doctrine. The court concluded that the Maryland Tax Court has jurisdiction to consider the appeal although the Court of Appeals stated that it rendered no opinion as to whether Brutus’s claim should be granted.
Judge Watts, who was joined by Judge Hotten, dissented. She thought that the Tax Court did not have jurisdiction because in her view sewer connection charges are not taxes.
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