CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has ruled that individuals who purchased tax liens on mineral rights are required to pay property taxes.

The petitioners argued that the circuit court erred by finding them liable for payment of property taxes for the years of 2011 and 2012, according to the Oct. 10 opinion.

“Upon consideration of the parties’ briefs and arguments and the pertinent authorities, we find no error and affirm the circuit court’s order,” the opinion states.

Chief Justice Allen Loughry authored the majority opinion.

In November 2006, Sheriff Philip G. Ferguson held a public auction of properties that were delinquent because of unpaid taxes, which included certain mineral interests of property in Union District of Barbour County.

No bid was received and Ferguson certified a lien on the property to the West Virginia State Auditor’s office pursuant to West Virginia code.

Ancient Energy Ltd., David E. Bowyer and David A. Dickey purchased the tax lien on mineral interests from the Deputy Commissioner of Delinquent and Nonentered Lands of Barbour County on Sept. 19, 2011, and secured the deed to the property on Jan. 23, 2012. 

In June 2012, Barbour County Assessor John M. Cutright entered the property on the county land books in the names of Dickey and Bowyer and, in 2013, Dickey and Bowyer received and paid a tax invoice for the 2013 property taxes.

Approximately two years later, the Sheriff’s office returned the payment with a not explaining the 2011 and 2012 taxes remained unpaid. The petitioners disputed their liability for the 2011 and 2012 taxes, arguing that because the mineral interests had been “sold” by the state, no taxes were due for that time period.

Unable to resolve the matter, the petitioners filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in Barbour Circuit Court on Sept. 23, 2014. 

The circuit court ruled that the back tax for 2011 and 2012 were appropriate.

“The record in this case shows that after Assessor Cutright was informed that petitioners Dickey and Bowyer had acquired title to the subject property, he entered assessments for 2011, 2012 and 2013 tax years,” Loughry wrote.

Because West Virginia Code § 11A-3-62 relates the tax lien purchaser’s title back to the year of the assessment for the property taxes that became delinquent, the Supreme Court found no error in the circuit court’s determination that the petitioners were liable for the 2011 and 2012 property taxes.

“As such, the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment to the respondents was proper,” Loughry wrote. “Accordingly…the final order of the Circuit Court of Barbour County entered on February 29, 2016, is affirmed.”

W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals case number: 16-0373

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