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LINCOLN — The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday that a mysterious case of “return to sender” should not block an Omaha manufacturing company from protesting its property tax valuation.
The Supreme Court also ruled for the first time that a stamp from a private postage meter is the same as an official postmark.
The case began in 2011 when Lozier Corp., a manufacturer of store shelves and other fixtures, sought to challenge the valuation of three land parcels by the Douglas County Board of Equalization. On behalf of Lozier, an Omaha accounting firm mailed in the necessary paperwork 11 days ahead of a deadline, according to a Supreme Court opinion released Friday.
For unknown reasons, the certified letter never made it to the Tax Equalization and Review Commission. Instead, it was returned to the accounting firm on Sept. 15, 2011, three days after the deadline. So the firm remailed it.
The law says a protest is considered validly filed if placed in the mail, postage prepaid, on or before the deadline. But commission staffers said the Lozier letter lacked a legible postmark and a postal cancellation from its original mailing, so they dismissed the appeal for being filed past the deadline.
While the letter lacked the original postal cancellation, it carried a postage meter stamp with the date of Sept. 1. The tax commission said it wasn't the same as an official postmark.
The high court ruled that postage meters are highly regulated by the U.S. Postal Service and, therefore, they are as equally valid as a postmark.
The court said there was adequate evidence that the accounting firm properly mailed the letter before the deadline, which met the requirements of the law. It was improper to deny the appeal for an apparent delivery error made by the Postal Service.
“This would be an absurd result because it would penalize taxpayers for events not under their control,” the court's opinion stated.
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