Appeal from the Baltimore City Court; Prendergast, J.
Brune, C. J., and Henderson, Hammond, Prescott and Marbury, JJ. Henderson, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.
This appeal challenges the validity of assessments on the
tangible personal property of the appellant made in 1960 for the tax years 1958 and 1959.
The appellant, a Maryland corporation, began to conduct an automobile sales and service business in November, 1956. On April 16, 1957, it filed a 1957 annual report of its tangible personal property with the State Tax Commission, as required by Code (1957), Art. 81, sec. 251, and a final assessment of $25,070 for the tax year 1957 was made and certified to the Department of Assessments and the Collector of Baltimore City as required by Code (1957), Art. 81, sec. 22, on November 13, 1957. The appropriate tax on the assessment so certified was billed to the taxpayer and paid in due course. See Code (1957), Art. 81, sec. 46. No annual report was filed by the taxpayer during the calendar year 1958, and no assessment was made or certified, nor was any tax billed or paid. On November 20, 1958, the State Tax Commission wrote the taxpayer, calling attention to the failure to file and enclosing a form to be returned within ten days, but no report was filed. No 1959 report was filed, and the taxpayer was placed on the list of delinquent corporations whose charters were to be forfeited by executive proclamation under Code (1957), Art. 81, sec. 204. On December 31, 1959, the taxpayer filed annual reports for the taxable years 1958 and 1959, and the taxpayer was removed from the forfeiture list on January 11, 1960. During 1959, no assessment was made against the taxpayer's tangible personal property for the tax year 1959, and no assessment was certified to Baltimore City, or tax billed or paid.
The State Department of Assessments and Taxation, which succeeded the State Tax Commission as the original assessing authority under Chapter 757 of the Acts of 1959, did not accept the information furnished in the reports filed, but on April 12, 1960, made tentative assessments in excess of the amounts reported. These tentative assessments were protested, but the taxpayer filed amended reports without prejudice to its legal contentions. Based on the information there furnished and acting under the provisions of Code (1957), Art. 81, sec. 34, relating to escaped property, the Department entered final assessments on July 20, 1960. The assessment for 1958 was $89,730 for State and local taxes; for 1959, the assessment
was $78,270 for State and local taxes and an additional $22,730 for State tax only. The reason for the different treatment was that by Ordinance 1339, effective December 31, 1958, the City granted a 25% exemption from taxes on stock in trade for the year 1959. These assessments were certified to Baltimore City for collection on August 16, 1960. The taxpayer appealed to the Maryland Tax Court under Code (1961 Supp.), Art. 81, sec. 258.
After a hearing, at which counsel were heard but no testimony was taken, the Maryland Tax Court on November 9, 1960, passed orders reversing the Department's assessments and assessing the taxpayer's tangible personal property at $25,070 for each of the tax years 1958 and 1959, the same figure at which it had been assessed for 1957. The Department appealed to the Baltimore City Court. Before the Maryland Tax Court had filed its findings of fact and conclusions of law, as required by Code (1961 Supp.), Art. 81, sec. 229 (1), the Maryland Tax Court of its own motion filed a suggestion signed by its Chief Judge, that the Baltimore City Court remand the case "for reconsideration and the taking of additional testimony." The remand was granted by order dated February 28, 1961.
On remand the Department produced the testimony of Mr. Albert W. Ward, the Director of the Department who had been the Secretary of the State Tax Commission since 1931. He testified as to the administrative practice in making assessments of tangible personal property over the past thirty years. On March 30, 1961, the Maryland Tax Court passed orders rescinding its orders of November 9, 1960, and affirming the assessments for the years 1958 and 1959, made by the Department. The taxpayer appealed to the Baltimore City Court. No additional testimony was taken, but the case was heard upon the record and upon the findings of fact and conclusions of law filed by the Tax Court. The orders were affirmed.
The appellant raises a preliminary question as to the validity of the remand and the taking of additional testimony before the Maryland Tax Court, and claims that it was prejudiced thereby. ...