DILLARD, P. J., GOBEIL and HODGES, JJ.
case addresses the proper forum for a tobacco taxpayer to
appeal a tobacco tax assessment by the Commissioner of the
Georgia Department of Revenue (the "Commissioner").
After receiving an executive order from the Commissioner
stating that it owed unpaid taxes, tobacco retailer Moosa
Company, LLC appealed its case to the Georgia Tax Tribunal.
See OCGA § 50-13A-1 et. seq. The Tribunal dismissed
Moosa's appeal, finding that it did not have subject
matter jurisdiction. Moosa petitioned for judicial review,
and the Superior Court of Fulton County affirmed the
Tribunal's dismissal. This Court granted Moosa's
application for discretionary review, and, because a specific
statute dictates the appellate procedure available to a
tobacco taxpayer, we affirm the trial court's order.
outset, we note that the interpretation of a statute is a
question of law, "which is reviewed de novo on
appeal." Brantley Land & Timber v. W & D
Investments, 316 Ga.App. 277, 279 (729 S.E.2d 458)
(2012). "Indeed, when only a question of law is at
issue, as here, we owe no deference to the trial court's
ruling and apply the 'plain legal error' standard of
review." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Kemp v.
Kemp, 337 Ga.App. 627, 632 (788 S.E.2d 517) (2016).
viewed, the record here shows that on February 1, 2017, Moosa
received an Official Assessment and Demand for Payment from
the Georgia Department of Revenue ("DOR") stating
that it owed $159, 298.39 as a result of unpaid tobacco
excise taxes, including penalties and interest. Moosa
appealed this assessment, and, pursuant to OCGA §
48-11-18 (a),  it received a hearing before an
administrative hearing officer of the DOR on July 19, 2017.
On June 25, 2018, the hearing officer, on behalf of the
Commissioner, upheld the assessment in its entirety in an
then filed a petition with the Tax Tribunal,  contesting the
Executive Order. The DOR moved to dismiss the petition on the
ground that the Tribunal lacked subject matter jurisdiction
over tobacco excise tax appeals. The Tribunal granted the
motion to dismiss, and Moosa petitioned the Superior Court of
Fulton County for judicial review of the Tribunal's
order. The superior court affirmed the Tribunal's order
finding that the Tribunal lacked subject matter jurisdiction,
and Moosa now appeals.
three related enumerations of error, Moosa contends that the
trial court's finding that the Tribunal lacks subject
matter jurisdiction over its appeal results from the trial
court's exercise of flawed statutory
construction. We disagree.
this Court interprets any statute, "we necessarily begin
our analysis with familiar and binding canons of
construction." (Citation and punctuation omitted.)
Kemp, 337 Ga.App. at 632.
When we consider the meaning of a statute, we must presume
that the General Assembly meant what it said and said what it
meant. To that end, we must afford the statutory text its
plain and ordinary meaning, we must view the statutory text
in the context in which it appears, and we must read the
statutory text in its most natural and reasonable way, as an
ordinary speaker of the English language would.
(Citations and punctuation omitted.) Deal v.
Coleman, 294 Ga. 170, 172-173 (1) (a) (751 S.E.2d 337)
(2013); accord Holcomb v. Long, 329 Ga.App. 515, 517
(1) (765 S.E.2d 687) (2014). We must also "seek to avoid
a construction that makes some language mere
surplusage." (Citations and punctuation omitted.)
Holcomb, 329 Ga.App. at 517-518 (1). Further, when
the language of a statute is "plain and susceptible to
only one natural and reasonable construction, courts must
construe the statute accordingly." (Citation and
punctuation omitted.) Id. at 518 (1); see also
Deal, 294 Ga. at 173 (1) (a) ("[I]f the
statutory text is clear and unambiguous, we attribute to the
statute its plain meaning, and our search for statutory
meaning is at an end.") (punctuation omitted).
this framework in mind, we first turn to Chapter 11 of Title
48 of the Code, which governs taxes on tobacco products.
Here, the General Assembly provided tobacco taxpayers with a
statute which specifically controls their rights to appeal
actions by the Commissioner - OCGA § 48-11-18 (b). That
Any person aggrieved because of any final action or decision
of the commissioner, after hearing, may appeal from the
decision to the superior court of the county in which the
appellant resides. The appeal shall be returnable at the
same time and shall be served and returned in the same manner
as required in the case of a summons in a civil action. The
authority issuing the citation shall take from the appellant
a bond of recognizance to the state, with surety, conditioned
to prosecute the appeal and to effect and comply with the
orders and decrees of the court. The action of the
commissioner shall be sustained unless the court finds that
the commissioner misinterpreted this chapter or that there is
no evidence to support the commissioner's action. If the
commissioner's action is not sustained, the court may
grant equitable relief to the appellant. Upon all appeals
which are denied, costs may be taxed against the appellant at
the discretion of the court. No costs of any appeal shall be
taxed against the state.
(Emphasis supplied.) Id.
language of this statute is clear and unambiguous in its
identification of the forum available to tobacco tax payers
for appeal - the superior court of the county in which the
taxpayer resides. We therefore need not, and in fact may not,
engage in any further statutory construction. That said, it
is worth noting that the statute contains no reference to the
Tribunal as an available forum, and "[t]his court cannot
add language to a statute by judicial decree." U.S.
Life Credit Corp. v. Johnson, 161 Ga.App. 864, 865 (1)
(290 S.E.2d 280) (1982). ...