March 19, 2019
- Whether a fully disabled veteran who has obtained a loan from the Veteran’s Administration for the modification of his home to be accommodating to his disability is entitled to a total exemption for property taxes pursuant to statute.
The Town of Belmont (Petitioner) appealed a decision from the Board of Tax and Land Appeals (the “Board”), which had granted the Robin M. Nordle 2013 Trust (Respondent) a tax exemption pursuant to New Hampshire RSA 72:36-a.
On appeal, the Petitioner argued that the Respondent is not entitled to the tax exemption that the Board granted since the Respondent had not used the loan from the Veteran’s Administration to acquire a modified home, but rather, used the money to modify a home that the disabled veteran already possessed. In rejecting the Petitioner’s arguments and affirming the Board’s determination, the Court reviewed the definitions of the word, “acquired.” The Court found that both the party’s uses of the word was possible, and that the word was therefore ambiguous, so the Court was required to review the legislative history for further guidance.
In reviewing the legislative history, the Court found that the New Hampshire statute tracked the purposes that were behind a related federal statute that authorized the Veteran’s Administration to issue loans for disabled veterans to have modified homes. The Court found it compelling that the New Hampshire statute changed to keep in line with the federal statute, and found that given the nature of all of the assistance that the Veteran’s Administration was able to offer, that the word “acquired” should be read to mean the purchase of a new home, or the modification of a home that was already owned. The Court, therefore, affirmed the granting of the tax exemption to the Respondent, and indicated that it would be left to legislature to alter the tax exemption statute if it disagreed with the conclusion.
Laura Spector-Morgan, of Mitchell Municipal Group, PA, on the brief and orally for the Petitioner. Joshua L. Gordon on the brief and orally for the Respondent.