Revenue And Taxation Code Section 5152 Was The Fee Entitlement Predicate.
The home of the American citizen after the tax bill has passed. July 19, 1862. Library of Congress. The caption reads: "Scroggs says he is ready and willing to pay any amount of tax, but he would like them to leave his wife's crinoline and other domestic trifles alone."
Ocean Avenue, LLC filed a complaint for a sizable $314,680.95 tax refund, arguing there had been no change in a hotel’s ownership such that a reassessment was improper. The trial court found in favor of Ocean Avenue, a judgment affirmed in an earlier appellate opinion. Then, the lower court awarded Ocean Avenue $252,118.75 in attorney’s fees under Revenue and Taxation Code section 5152, which allows for recovery of attorney’s fees by the taxpayer where the assessor failed to follow a specific tax provision and did so under the belief the law was unconstitutional/invalid (versus just having a misunderstanding of the law). (Phillips Petroleum Co. v. County of Lake, 15 Cal.App.4th 180, 197-198 (1993).)
The County’s appeal of the fee award was unsuccessful in Ocean Avenue, LLC v. County of Los Angeles, Case No. B249722 (2d Dist., Div. 2 July 1, 2015) (unpublished).
The record showed that the County did challenge the constitutionality/invalidity of certain tax provisions and failed to follow Revenue and Taxation Code section 538, which requires an assessor to file a declaratory relief action when he/she challenges a specific provisions of the law (something not done here, so there was a failure to follow a specific tax provision). County’s own statements during closing argument proved the point, and it could not backtrack from them on appeal. The appellate court, in affirming, also awarded costs on appeal, which also means Ocean Avenue can seek further fees for its appellate win.