If you own property on St. John, you may have thought you'd have a Virgin Islands tax bill to pay next month.
It appears you can fuggetabout it.
A federal appeals court has rejected the Virgin Islands government’s renewed effort to collect property taxes from 2006.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled against arguments from the Governor and the Tax Assessor finding the VIs have failed to obey orders to reform the property tax assessment system, specifically to offer a fair and timely process for tax appeals.
The Appeals Court said it agreed with the District Court that there was little evidence “to suggest that the Board of Tax Review is maintaining reliable records“ and that “certain good faith attempts” to establish an appeals system is not enough.
“In other words, procedural due process requires at a minimum that the taxpayer have both notice of the appeal and the right to participate,” the Court said. It found that process lacking.
Last fall, the District Court held the Virgin Islands in contempt for issuing tax bills without getting court approval of a new tax assessment system. The government appealed the contempt order and, earlier this year, demanded payment of the previously-sent bills be made next month.
James Derr, a St. Thomas attorney for plaintiffs successfully arguing to block the government, said the Appeals Court decision was clear. As you can see, we won on all points.”
He wrote in an e-mail, "This means that both the contempt and the order to recall the 2006 bills are back in place." He added, "It should be interesting to see what the Government does now.”
St. John-based VI Unity Day Group hailed the Appeals Court decision. A founder of the group, Coral Bay's Loreli Monsanto, told The Inquiring Iguana, "We're all winners on this one. Now we'rt waiting for the Governor's next move."
Gov. John deJongh had no immediate comment on the decision
against his administration. In fact, there was nothing at all on his
Web site. It was a blank page at http://www.governordejongh.com/.