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NJ – Disabled veteran eligible for exemption

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A veteran was eligible for a New Jersey local property tax exemption for his dwelling for tax year 2011 based on disabilities he suffered from exposure to enemy chemical agents in the course of military service in Operation Northern Watch/Southern Watch pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:4-3.30 and N.J.S.A. 54:4-8.10.

The veteran’s military service took place at a Navy weapons laboratory in California where he examined chemical agents recovered from the battlefield in Iraq and transported to the United States for analysis. The township contended that the veteran was not entitled to an exemption because his disabilities did not result from active service in the “theater of operation” of the conflict, which the municipality contended was limited to the specific geographic regions in the Middle East in which Operation Northern Watch/Southern Watch took place. However, the New Jersey Legislature did not place a geographic limitation on eligibility for a disabled veteran’s exemption based on service in Operation Northern Watch/Southern Watch.

As a result, the veteran’s disabilities, although resulting from military service in the United States, qualified him for an exemption for his dwelling. Furthermore, the veteran’s failure to file a written claim with the tax assessor for tax year 2011 and his joint ownership of his home with his former wife did not preclude the award of an exemption. The exemption will be applied to the veteran’s proportionate share of ownership of the property.

Wellington v. Township of Hillsborough, New Jersey Tax Court, No. 014156-2011, October 24, 2012