Attorney General: Hon. Donald F. Miller, Commissioner of Revenue Services, 1994-019 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

July 29, 1994

Hon. Donald F. Miller
Commissioner of Revenue Services
92 Farmington Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105

Dear Commissioner Miller:

This is in response to your letter dated January 31, 1994, in which you request a formal opinion of the Attorney General concerning an issue relating to the jurisdiction of the tax review committee (hereinafter "the committee") under Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-3a.

You state as follows:

The committee is "to approve any waiver of penalty which the commissioner of revenue services . . . is authorized to waive in accordance with this title which is in excess of one hundred dollars." Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-3a(a).

Please advise me whether the tax review committee has statutory authority to consider and to waive any penalty in excess of one hundred dollars that the Commissioner of Revenue Services has determined not to waive.

In answer to your question, it is our opinion that the tax review committee does not have statutory authority to consider and to waive any penalty which "the Commissioner of Revenue Services has determined not to waive."

Our conclusion is based upon the plain language of the statute. Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-3a in pertinent part states as follows:

Sec. 12-3a. Tax review committee established. Waiver of penalties; report; appeals. (a) There is created a tax review committee which shall consist of the state comptroller, the secretary of the office of policy and management and the commissioner of revenue services. Said committee shall meet monthly or as often as necessary to approve any waiver of penalty which the commissioner of revenue services, or the executive director of the division of special revenue, is authorized to waive in accordance with this title which is in excess of one hundred dollars. . . .(Emphasis added.)

The statute by its terms only gives the committee the authority to "approve" any waiver of penalty which the Commissioner is authorized to waive. The Commissioner, not the committee, is authorized under various provisions of title 12 of the General Statute to waive penalties, subject to the provisions of section 12-3a.1 The word "approve" is not defined in the statute. Therefore, it must be given its ordinary and commonly expressed meaning. See Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-1 and Caldor, Inc. v. Heffernan, 183 Conn. 566, 570, 440 A.2d 767 (1981). Black's Law Dictionary (6th Ed. 1990) defines the word "approve" as meaning "to confirm, ratify, sanction, or consent to some act or thing done by another."

The Connecticut Supreme Court has recently stated in Bolt Technology v. Comm. of Revenue Services, 213 Conn. 220, 567 A.2d 371 (1989), quoting State v. Smith, 194 Conn. 213, 479 A.2d 814 (1984), that:

The primary rule of statutory construction is that "[i]f the language of the statute is clear, it is assumed that the words themselves express the intent of the legislature; and thus there is no need to construe the statute. [citations omitted]."

Id. at 229.

The legislature in Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-3a clearly and unambiguously gives the committee the authority to approve, sanction, or ratify any waiver of penalties by the Commissioner. It does not give the committee the authority to waive the penalties itself. If the legislature intended that the committee have the authority to waive penalties, it could have easily given the committee that authority in the statute. The fact that it did not do so confirms the fact that the legislature intended that only the Commissioner should have the authority to waive penalties.

In summary, it is our opinion that the Committee does not have the statutory authority to waive any penalty that the Commissioner has determined not to waive. It only has the authority to approve or ratify the waiver of penalties that the Commissioner has decided to waive.

We trust that this answers your question.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Robert L. Klein
Assistant Attorney General

RB/RLK/bjg


Footnote:

1 For instance, Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-229(c) provides as follows:

Subject to the provisions of section 12-3a, the commissioner may waive all or part of the penalties provided under this chapter when it is proven to his satisfaction that the failure to pay any tax on time was due to reasonable cause and was not intentional or due to neglect.

Other provisions of the General Statutes which authorize the Commissioner to waive penalties, subject to the provisions of section 12-3a, are as follows:

Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-206 Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-439
Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-268d Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-509
Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-293a Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-575
Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-330d Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-590
Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-405d Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-655
Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-419 Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-667
Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-439 Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-735
Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-458 Conn. Gen. Stat. 38a-277


Back to the 1994 Opinions Page
Back to Opinions Page



Content Last Modified on 6/7/2005 12:05:52 PM