Appeal from the Circuit Court for Harford County; Day, C. J.
Brune, C. J., and Henderson, Prescott, Horney and Marbury, JJ. Marbury, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.
The appellant, Register of Wills of Harford County, on August 11, 1959, brought an action at law for inheritance taxes, interest, and penalty alleged to be due by reason of the death of Caroline Hall against appellee as executor of the estate of Henrietta Mitchell Smith. The appellee filed a general issue plea and a special plea of limitations, to the latter of which appellant filed a replication. The case was presented to the court upon stipulation of the facts involved and the court entered judgment for the appellee.
Briefly stated the facts are as follows: In 1938 Caroline Hall and Henrietta Mitchell Smith, who were sisters, obtained title as joint tenants in fee simple to a certain parcel of realty lying in the Third Election District of Harford County. On October 18, 1952, Caroline died, her interest passing to Henrietta by survivorship. Caroline was intestate and there has never been administration on her estate; and inheritance taxes due the State of Maryland by virtue of the survivorship of Henrietta Mitchell Smith to the property have not been paid. Henrietta Mitchell Smith died on May 26, 1958, a resident of said county, seized in fee simple of the aforesaid property, and soon thereafter appellee qualified as executor of her estate. Appellee refused to pay the inheritance tax due the register of wills by virtue of the survivorship of Henrietta Mitchell Smith to the property involved, in connection with the demise of Caroline Hall. The register of wills thereafter effected an appraisal of the value of said real estate, such appraisal having been filed with the appellant on or about May 21, 1959, fixing the value of the share of Caroline Hall in the joint property, as of the date of her death, at $10,500.00.
The appellant claimed 7 1/2% of the appraised value, amounting to $787.50, and in addition a 25% statutory penalty as provided in Code (1957), Article 81, § 170, of $196.87, and interest running from June 21, 1959.
More than four years elapsed between the death of Caroline Hall and the appraisal of her share in the realty at the order of the register of wills, so as to assess inheritance tax thereon.
The appellee relies on Code (1957), Article 81, § 212, which provides in part:
"All State, county or city taxes of every kind for which no other period of limitation is prescribed by this article shall be collected within four years after they shall have become due, or else shall be utterly barred; and no such taxes shall be collected after said period; * * *" (Emphasis supplied.)
On the other hand the State contends that inheritance taxes do not become due as provided above until there has been
and appraisal, and since no appraisal was made until May 21, 1959, the filing of this suit was well within the four year period as provided by § 212, supra.
The lower court determined that the inheritance tax on Caroline Hall's interest became due "either when Caroline died, on October 18, 1952, or 90 days thereafter when an administrator should have been appointed and an inventory filed as provided in Article 81, Sections 167 and 169, Annotated Code of Maryland"; thus holding that the State was barred from collecting the inheritance tax by reason of the four year limitation as ...