On Friday, the New Jersey Self Storage Association circulated an important letter regarding the state's Oct. 1 tax reform, which calls for the imposition of sales tax on all storage rentals. The association appealed to the U.S. District Court and received a response on Thursday evening; the missive shares the verdict. It also urges members to contribute to its Legal Defense Fund, which is imperative if the association is to continue the good fight on owners' behalf.
A copy of the letter follows. I think it's important for storage operators everywhere to take heed of the situation, both to brace themselves for potential issues they may face in their own areas as well as to appreciate the challenges of their contemporaries.
November 3 - NJSSA Federal Court Decision Reached Yesterday
NJSSA Members and Friends,
Last evening, we received the decision of Judge Faith Hochberg, US District Court Judge, denying our request that she take jurisdiction of this challenge to the state imposed sales tax on self storage units; essentially the Judge finds that there is a state court remedy that is, in her opinion, "plain, speedy and efficient" and in which "the taxpayer may raise any and all constitutional objections to the tax" and thus declines to exercise jurisdiction over the matter due to that fact. This decision, while disappointing, is not a determination on the merits of our case, but merely tells the self storage community that we must go to the State courts to press our claims and seek a remedy in the state rather than the federal forum. The Court invokes the federal "Tax Injunction Act" which says that where there is a state court remedy as stated above and the challenge would result in a reduction of a state's tax revenues, the federal court must require litigants (such as us) to use the state courts. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THE END OF OUR CASE; IN FACT, THIS IS JUST A "NEW" BEGINNING.
Our attorneys are now examining the most effective and fastest route to get us into the state court with the same constitutional challenges to the sales tax. The NJSSA Board of Directors will be reviewing this later today.
While this decision is clearly disappointing, there is something else that I find disappointing as well. Over the years, some members have often sought help from this office and we have always responded as well and as quickly as we can. Then we find that these same folks have NOT stepped up to the plate and have NOT donated to the NJSSA Legal Defense Fund. This is an effort to help your businesses and I am shocked that some in our membership don't seem to care about helping their own businesses. So I am asking once again, if you have not donated to the NJSSA Legal Defense Fund at the $500 per facility level, or if you feel that you can donate again, now is the time! This legal fight is being undertaken on behalf of all NJSSA members. Our attorneys and our Board are confident that we will prevail in defeating this unconstitutional sales tax on self storage, but it is going to take time and money. While we have reserve funds to meet our current legal fees, we will still need money for printing briefs and other court expenses. Please find a donation form on our website, www.njssa.org.
Remember to keep us informed of how many tenants you are losing because of the sales tax. We don't need specifics (such as names of your renters, or the dollar amounts they paid in rent), but please outline the numbers of people you might be losing, and what size units they are giving up.
Chris McGrath, Executive Director, NJSSA
120 Washington Ave.
Albany, NY 12210