Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; (Hon. Annice M. Wagner, Trial Judge)
Before Terry, Steadman, and Schwelb, Associate Judges.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terry
TERRY, Associate Judge: This appeal presents a question of first impression regarding the interpretation of D.C. Code § 47-3303 (1990). We read that statute, along with D.C. Code § 47-453 (1990), as imposing upon the taxpayer an obligation to pay all taxes due, together with interest accruing until the time of payment, before filing in the Superior Court a petition challenging a notice of tax deficiency. Because appellant did not do that, we affirm the trial court's dismissal of appellant's petition.
By letter dated April 8, 1987, the District of Columbia Department of Finance and Revenue ("the Department") sent appellant First Interstate Credit Alliance, Inc., a notice of tax deficiency relating to personal property taxes for tax years 1985 and 1986. Appellant protested the assessment, but the Department did not change its determination that appellant owed delinquent personal property taxes. As a result, on September 2, 1987, the Department sent appellant a letter stating that it had made a final determination of tax deficiency. Attached to this letter was a "Notice of Tax Due" for each of the two tax years at issue, 1985 and 1986.
The Notice of Tax Due for tax year 1985 reflected an assessment of $146,986.94 for taxes, $14,698.70 for penalty, and $55,855.04 for interest. The total payment due for 1985 was stated to be $217,540.68. The Notice of Tax Due for tax Year 1986 reflected an assessment of $16,393.42 for taxes, $1,639.35 for penalty, and $4,262.29 for interest. The total payment due for 1986 was stated to be $22,295.06. Each notice contained a statement that payment must be received before the "interest date," shown on each form as September 30, 1987. The notices also included a series of blanks for the recordation of other amounts, one of which represented "additional interest."
On March 2, 1988, appellant delivered to the Audit Division of the Department two checks representing the total amounts shown on the Notices of Tax Due for 1985 and 1986. On the same date, appellant challenged the assessment of personal property tax deficiency by filing a petition in the Tax Division of the Superior Court pursuant to D.C. Code § 47-3303 (1990). The District of Columbia promptly filed a motion to dismiss the petition, asserting that the court lacked jurisdiction to consider appellant's challenge because the full amount of interest owed had not been paid before the petition was filed. The court granted the District's motion, and appellant noted this appeal.
D.C. Code § 47-3303 imposes on a District of Columbia taxpayer the obligation to pay the amount of tax assessed, "together with penalties and interest due thereon," before challenging an assessment in the Superior Court. In relevant part, section 47-3303 provides:
Any person aggrieved by any assessment by the District of any personal property . . . tax or taxes, or penalties thereon, may within six months after the date of such assessment appeal from the assessment to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia: Provided, that such person shall first pay such tax together with penalties and interest due thereon to the D.C. Treasurer. The mailing to the taxpayer of a statement of taxes due shall be considered notice of assessment with respect to the taxes.
This section is jurisdictional; failure to file within the six-month period or failure to pay the tax, penalties, and interest due deprives the Superior Court of jurisdiction to consider the taxpayer's appeal. George Hyman Construction Co. v. District of Columbia, 315 A.2d 175, 178 (D.C. 1974) (construing predecessor statute); Perry v. District of Columbia, 314 A.2d 766, 766-767 (D.C.) (same), cert denied, 419 U.S. 836 (1974); see District of Columbia v. Berenter, 151 App. D.C. 196, 203-205, 466 F.2d 367, 374-376 (1972).
Appellant filed its petition challenging the assessment of personal property taxes exactly six months after the District sent to appellant the two Notices of Tax Due. At that time, appellant paid the total amount of deficiency shown on each notice, but it did not pay the interest which accrued between September 30, 1987, and March 2, 1988. The sole question on appeal is whether this payment was enough to satisfy the jurisdictional requirement of D.C. Code § 47-3303. We hold that it was not.
The District maintains, and the trial court held, that appellant's failure to pay the interest which accrued up to the time of payment deprived the Superior Court of jurisdiction under D.C. Code § 47-3303. The trial court's decision rested on the plain meaning of section 47-3303 and several other statutes. More specifically, the court held that D.C. Code § 47-453 defines the relevant measure of "interest thereon" under section 47-3303. Section 47-453 provides in pertinent part:
If any tax specified in § 47-451 [including personal property taxes] is not paid on or before the last date prescribed for payment . .. interest at the rate of 1 1/2 % per month, or fraction of a month, shall be added to the tax from the date ...