In this week's Alabama Law Weekly Update, we bring you a case from the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals addressing the law controlling an appeal from a county tax assessment.

Target Corp. v. Jefferson County Board of Equalization et al., [Ms. 2140297, Nov. 13, 2015], -- So. 3d -- (Ala. Civ. App. 2015) (Per Curium) (Alabama Administrative Procedure Act does not control appeals from county board of equalization's final ad valorem tax assessments; notice of appeal mailed via certified mail not “filed” until date actually received) 

On August 28, 2013, the Jefferson County Board of Equalization (the “Board”) entered final assessments of the value of two parcels of property in Trussville owned by Target Corporation (“Target”).  Alabama law dictated that a taxpayer has 30 days to appeal a final valuation by a county board of equalization.  Alabama law also requires that the taxpayer must file the notice of appeal within that time both with the circuit court and the secretary of the county board of equalization.

Within the 30 day period following the Board's entry of the final assessments of value, Target filed a notice of appeal with the trial court and, on the same date, mailed a copy of the notice of appeal to the “Secretary of the Jefferson County Board of Equalization” via certified mail, return receipt requested.  The mailing was postmarked within the 30 day requirement but signed for by an employee outside the 30 day requirement.  The Board's motion to dismiss raised this defect and the trial court subsequently dismissed Target's appeal on grounds that the notice was not timely filed with the Board because it was not actually received until after the 30-day period had expired.

On appeal, Target argued that its original appeal was timely perfected under the Alabama Administrative Procedure Act (the “AAPA”) which dictates that the date of mailing of certified mail is sufficient when appealing an agency's determination.  The AAPA is separate from the statute in the Alabama tax code allowing for an appeal of board of equalization valuations.  The appeals court, in a per curium decision, concluded that Target's appeal was exclusively controlled by the provisions of the tax code and not the AAPA.  Although the AAPA allows for filing on the agency by certified mail, the appellate court found no similar provision in the section of the Alabama tax code permitting the appeal and determined that Target's appeal was not timely filed.  The appeals court therefore affirmed the trial court's dismissal on grounds that Target failed to timely perfect its appeal of the Board's determinations by failing to file the appeal with the board secretary within the 30-day requirement.  

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Donaldson explained the history and reasoning behind the AAPA, determining that its provisions should apply when not in conflict with any other statute. As applied to Target's appeal, Judge Donaldson would have determined that the appeal was timely because the AAPA's provision allowing certified mail did not conflict with the tax code and Target complied with the AAPA's certified mail requirements.