Facts: A county tax assessor conducts a tax audit of the holdings of a property owner which results in the assessment of additional taxes on personal property which the property owner does not own. The property owner appeals the assessment on the grounds the property does not exist and therefore no taxes are due. At the instruction of the appeals board, the property owner pays in full the assessed taxes, penalties and interest in several installments. After all assessed taxes and related amounts are paid, the property owner files a claim for a refund of the assessed taxes and related fees without first applying for a reduction in the assessment.
Claim: The property owner seeks a full refund of the taxes, penalties and interest paid on the assessment without first applying for a an assessment reduction, arguing that an assessment reduction is not an available administrative remedy since the assessed property does not exist and thus the refund claim is valid.
Counterclaim: The County seeks to deny the property owner’s tax refund claim, arguing the property owner failed to exhaust available administrative remedies since they did not file a request for an assessment adjustment prior to filing the refund claim.
Holding: The California Court of Appeals holds that, since the property owner does not own the assessed property, an application for an assessment reduction is not an available remedy and a refund claim is proper. [Williams & Fickett v. County of Fresno (2015) 232 CA4th 1250]