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Head-on Collision Line, Inc. v. Kirk

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 17, 1976.

HEAD-ON COLLISION LINE, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

FRANK A. KIRK, DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. F. EMMETT MORRISSEY, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE DOWNING DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Head-On Collision Line, Inc. (plaintiff) appeals the circuit court of Cook County dismissal of its complaint for an injunction enjoining the collection of a tax assessed on plaintiff's operating personal property for the years 1971 and 1972 by the State taxing agency, Department of Local Government Affairs of the State of Illinois (defendant).

The issues to be reviewed on appeal are: (i) whether the trial court properly dismissed plaintiff's complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies; and (ii) whether the trial court properly ruled the tax was not an unreasonable and unequal treatment of plaintiff under the Illinois and Federal constitutions.

Plaintiff is a Delaware corporation engaged in the business of owning and operating a fleet of railroad tank cars for hire upon railroad lines throughout most of the country, including Illinois. Plaintiff is admittedly subject to "An Act for assessment and taxation of Private Car Line companies" (hereinafter Act). (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 120, par. 372.1 et seq.) The Act provides for the taxation of operating personal property of private car line companies using railway lines running through this State. Taxes *fn1 were assessed against plaintiff's operating personal property for the years 1971 and 1972 according to this Act.

Plaintiff's representatives appeared before defendant to question the amount of the 1971 and 1972 assessments. Defendant reviewed and finalized these assessments. *fn2 Plaintiff filed no action for judicial review of the defendant agency's determination pursuant to the statutory provisions for administrative review, section 4b of the Act.

Some time later plaintiff filed a complaint for an injunction to enjoin defendant from collecting the taxes resulting from the 1971 and 1972 assessments. Plaintiff alleged the taxes constituted an unreasonable and invidious inequality of treatment in violation of the Illinois and Federal constitutions, in that no similar tax had been levied by State or local governmental taxing authorities upon property consisting of barges and other commercial watercraft operating upon waterways within and contiguous to this State. In its brief in this court plaintiff asserts that it was after the administrative hearings that it "discovered that another group of property owners was not being assessed in any amount for operating personal property." Thus it sought judicial review to seek redress for such unequal treatment.

Defendant answered the complaint asserting it had no authority to assess watercraft because those properties were subject to assessment by local authorities. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 120, par. 553.) In its answer defendant also asserted plaintiff's complaint is barred by its failure to seek administrative review of the final assessments of the 1971 and 1972 tax as provided for in section 4b of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 120, par. 372.4(b)).

The circuit court, after considering the pleadings and memoranda filed by both parties, entered judgment on the pleadings finding plaintiff's action was barred for failure to exhaust its administrative remedies, that the Act was valid, and does not constitute an unreasonable or unequal treatment of plaintiff in violation of the Illinois and Federal constitutions. Plaintiff appeals that order.

I.

We first consider whether the trial court properly dismissed plaintiff's complaint for failure to exhaust its administrative remedies. Plaintiff contends its failure to challenge the administrative determination of the tax assessment pursuant to the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 110, par. 264 et seq.) was not fatal.

The Administrative Review Act (ARA) provides, inter alia:

"This Act shall apply to and govern every action to review judicially a final decision of any administrative agency where the Act creating or conferring power on such agency, by express reference, adopts the provisions of this Act. In all such cases, any other statutory, equitable or common law mode of review of decisions of administrative agencies heretofore available shall not be employed after the effective date hereof.

Unless review is sought of an administrative decision within the time and in the manner herein provided, the parties to the proceeding before the administrative agency shall be barred from obtaining judicial review of such ...


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