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COLVARD et al. v. RIDLEY, Commissioner, et al.
CANDLER, Justice.
Equitable petition. Murray Superior Court. Before Judge Davis.
1. Art. VII, Sec. I, Par. III of the Constitution of 1945 provides: "All taxes shall be levied and collected under general laws and for public purposes only. All taxation shall be uniform upon the same class of subjects within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax." Code Ann. 2-5403. And Art. I, Sec. I, Par. II of our Constitution declares that "protection to person and property is the paramount duty of government, and shall be impartial and complete." Code Ann. 2-102. "Taxation on all real and tangible personal property subject to be taxed is required to be ad valorem--that is, according to value, and the requirement in the Constitution that the rule of taxation shall be uniform, means that all kinds of property of the same class not absolutely exempt must be taxed alike, by the same standard of valuation, equally with other taxable property of the same class, and coextensively with the territory to which it applies, meaning the territory from Which the given tax, as a whole, is to be drawn." Hutchins v. Howard, 211 Ga. 830 (89 SE2d 183). Realty and tangible personal property are of the same class, and the constitutional rule of uniformity in taxation requires that both be taxed alike. Code Ann. 2-5403; Hutchins v. Howard, supra. It is the duty of the board of tax assessors to see that all taxable property within the county is returned and assessed for taxes at its just and fair value and that valuations as between the individual taxpayers are fairly and justly equalized so that each taxpayer shall pay as near as may be only his proportionate share of taxes. Code Ann. 92-6911. Tax assessors are authorized to fix the fair market value of property for taxes from the best information obtainable. Code Ann. 92-6913. "This does not require the tax assessors to use any definite system or method, but demands only that the valuations be just and that they be fairly and justly equalized among the individual taxpayers (Hutchins v. Williams, 212 Ga. 754 (4), supra), '. . . according to the best information obtainable . . .' Code Ann. 92-6913. The tax assessors may use any system, method, cadastral survey, books, available lists of valuations of types of property, city valuations or other instruments or other information obtainable, provided said information is actually used by them as the best information available in their fixing of just and fair valuations of the property assessed, and provided that the taxation as between individual taxpayers is justly and fairly equalized." Kight v. Gilliard, 214 Ga. 445, 448-449 (105 SE2d 333). The tax assessors must use the same standard or system in determining and fixing the taxable value of all property of the same class. Hutchins v. Candler, 209 Ga. 415 (73 SE2d 191); and Kight v. Gilliard, 214 Ga. 445, 449, supra. And "an assessment made in the manner prescribed by the statute is indispensable in proceedings to enforce the collection of taxes." Kirk v. Bray, 181 Ga. 814, 821 (184 SE 733). Without here repeating the allegations of the petition, it is sufficient to say they show that the assessments made by the board of tax assessors are null and void for want of uniformity in fixing taxable values as between different types of taxable property of the same class.
2. Since the petition alleges facts which affirmatively show that the board of tax assessors failed to use the same standard in assessing taxable property of the same class for 1962 ad valorem taxes, there is no merit in the contention that the plaintiffs have an adequate and complete remedy by arbitration under Code Ann. 92-6912. In this connection, see Green v. Calhoun, 204 Ga. 550 (3) (50 SE2d 209) and Hutchins v. Howard, 211 Ga. 830, supra.
3. For reasons stated in the two preceding divisions, the petition stated a cause of action for equitable relief and the court erred in dismissing it on general demurrers.
Alleging themselves to be citizens and taxpayers of Murray County, Georgia, T. W. Colvard and 17 others in their own behalf and in behalf of other similarly situated citizens and tax-payers of that county filed a suit for equitable relief against Clarence Ridley, individually and as sole Commissioner of Roads and Revenues of Murray County; Jimmy Gregory, individually and as Tax Commissioner of Murray County; and Smythe Newsome, Houston Burt, and W. H. Bramblett, individually and as the members of the Board of Tax Assessors of Murray County. Briefly and in substance, their petition alleges that for 1962 State and county ad valorem tax purposes the members of Murray County's Board of Tax Assessors adopted and used the following assessment procedure: They ascertained and determined the value of all taxable realty in the county wholly from an appraisal of it which J. L. Jacobs & Company, an appraisal firm, had previously made for Murray County--an appraisal showing and fixing its actual market value; they accepted the value of all tangible personal property, other than household and kitchen furniture, at whatever value it was returned for by each separate taxpayer without making any investigation or inquiry whatsoever as to its fair market value and they arbitrarily fixed the value of all household and kitchen furniture at an amount equal to 10% of the fair market value of the owner's dwelling and the land on which it was located. After so defining the value of all real and tangible personal property of each taxpayer, the board assessed it for taxes at 40% of such valuations. The petition alleges that, according to the respective values of each, the assessment procedure employed and used by the board of tax assessors does not impose a uniform tax on property of the same class. It is also alleged that the method employed by the board of tax assessors in assessing household and kitchen furniture and other different types of tangible personal property imposes an unequal tax on personal property. It is also alleged that the procedure used by the board of tax assessors was, for the reason alleged, discriminatory; that it did not equalize the burden of taxation between the several taxpayers of the county owning property of the same class; and that the assessments as thus made by the board of tax assessors offend enumerated constitutional provisions of this State and of the United States. In addition to prayers for certain injunctive relief, the petition also prays for a decree declaring the assessments to be illegal, null and void; and, for such reason, that they be vacated and set aside. The petition was dismissed on general demurrers and the exception is to that judgment.
Mitchell & Mitchell, Sam Calhoun, contra.
Pittman & Kinney, H. E. Kinney, for plaintiffs in error.
Friday May 22 22:46 EDT

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