New Jersey Law

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Tax Court disqualifies property owner from relying upon farmland assessment.

Tax Court Presiding Judge DeAlmeida is about to ascend to the Appellate Division. But, before he does the Court is rendering some interesting decisions. Recently the Court decided an unpublished farmland assessment case entitled Russo v Twp of Plumsted. The decision followed a trial in which the Court detailed the lack of credibility in the taxpayer’s case and the owner’s testimony. The Court decided that the dominant use of the property for the 2012 tax year was not farming, and also disqualified it for farmland assessment for the 2013 and 2014 tax years. The Court concluded that the taxpayer failed to provide detailed financial information to support farming activities. The Court also noted that the taxpayer had converted a large part of the parcel to a motor-cross track for his son and his friends to ride motor bikes; stored a decommissioned and dismantled amusement park ride from Great Adventure on the property; and ran a land clearing, site work, and hauling business from the property where he stored several dumpsters filled with debris. Soil hauled in from work he had done on the NJ Turnpike, was also dumped by the owner on a field at the property and one of the barns was used for the owner’s classic motor care restoration business. For the 2013 and 2014 years, the Court determined that even if the property was then qualified for farming, the taxpayer needed to re-establish the farm qualification over a two year period as required; accordingly he denied the farmland assessment for both of those years. The facts make for some very interesting reading. Here is a link to the case:

http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/attorneys/assets/opinions/tax/015983-2012.opn2.pdf

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