Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Board Finds Taxpayer's Comparable Analysis Failed to Show Error in Properties' Assessed Values

This is an interesting decision because it recognizes some differences between the 2011 Real Property Assessment Manual and the 2002 Real Property Assessment Manual.

Excerpts of the Board's Determination follow:

The Petitioner claimed that his land value was assessed too high in 2010 and 2012 compared to other parcels in his area. In support of his contentions, the Petitioner submitted assessment data for seven nearby properties each in 2010 and 2012. For 2010, the Petitioner erroneously calculated that the comparable land was assessed at an average rate of $5.97 per square foot (or $6.96 per square foot as explained in footnote 2), whereas the Petitioner’s land was assessed at $18.37 per square foot. Using a similar calculation for 2012, the Petitioner concluded the average assessed land value for the comparables was $8.52 per square foot while the Petitioner’s land was assessed at $18.37 per square foot.

31. Indiana Code section 6-1.1-15-18(c) states: “To accurately determine market-value-in-use, a taxpayer . . . may in a proceeding concerning property that is not residential property, introduce evidence of the assessments of any relevant, comparable property.” The statute further states that preference is given to properties in the same taxing district or within two miles of a boundary of the taxing district and that “the determination of whether properties are comparable shall be made using generally accepted appraisal and assessment practices.” Id.

32. Here, the Petitioner failed to establish the comparability of the selected parcels. The only comparable qualities the Petitioner offered were the fact that the subject property and the comparables were located near each other, and the fact that the subject property and the comparables were similarly zoned as commercial general or commercial arterial. Pet’r. Ex. 4-5. However, the subject property is a convenience market with gas stations and the comparable properties include the following: two commercial structures (comparables 1, 6), a fast food restaurant (comparable 2), a commercial warehouse (comparable 3), a full-service bank (comparable 4), a vacant lot (comparable 5), and a 40 unit apartment building (comparable 7). Pet’r Ex. 5. And the size of the lots range from .155 acres to 1.33 acres. Pet’r Ex. 5. The Petitioner is “responsible for explaining to the Indiana Board the characteristics of their own property, how those characteristics compared to those of the purportedly comparable properties, and how any differences affected the relevant market value-in-use of the properties.” Long, 821 N.E.2d at 471. Despite presenting such a variety of comparables, the Petitioner failed to address any of the considerable differences between the subject property and the comparables.

33. The Petitioner also argued that the subject property should not have had an influence factor applied to the land. The Board notes that the Petitioner failed to provide any market evidence of what the value should be. Instead, he merely alleged that the county assessor should remove the 100% positive influence factor applied to the Petitioner’s land. He provided no support, other than his opinion, for this assertion. Unsubstantiated conclusions do not constitute probative evidence. Whitley Products, Inc. v. State Bd. of Tax Comm’rs, 704 N.E.2d 1113, 1119 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1998).

34. For 2010, the Petitioner failed to show that the assessment was not a reasonable measure of true tax value. See 50 IAC 2.3-1-1(d)4 (stating that “failure to comply with the … Guidelines … does not in itself show that the assessment is not a reasonable measure of ‘True Tax Value[.]”). The Petitioner presented no market evidence to show that the assessment is not a reasonable measure of the true tax value. See Eckerling v. Wayne Township Assessor, 841 N.E.2d 674 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2006) (stating that when a taxpayer chooses to challenge an assessment, he must show that the assessor's assessed value does not accurately reflect the property's market value-in-use. Strict application of the regulations is not enough to rebut the presumption that the assessment is correct). The Petitioner must show through the use of market-based evidence that the assessed value does not accurately reflect the property’s market value-in-use. Here, the Petitioner did not. Therefore, the Petitioner has failed to raise a prima facie case. See Eckerling, (stating that focusing strictly on the assessor’s methodology without showing that the methodology used failed to accurately reflect the property's market value-in-use is insufficient to show that the assessment was in error).

35. The Petitioner similarly failed to show that the assessment was not a reasonable measure of true tax value for 2012. The 2011 Manual states:

Any evidence relevant to the true tax value of the property as of the assessment date may be presented to rebut the presumption of correctness of the assessment. Such evidence may include an appraisal prepared in accordance with generally recognized appraisal standards; however, there is no requirement that an appraisal be presented either to support or to rebut an assessment. Instead, the validity of the assessment shall be evaluated on the basis of all relevant evidence presented. Whether an assessment is correct shall be determined on the basis of whether, in light of the relevant evidence, it reflects the property's true tax value.


36. Again, the only evidence for 2012 the Petitioner introduced was a list of comparable properties that were located near the subject property and zoned similar to the subject property. None of the Petitioner’s comparables were convenience markets in the same neighborhood as the subject property.

37. Finally, the Petitioner contended that properties with similar potential zoning uses should be assessed similarly. The Petitioner presented no authority in support of this argument. Indiana’s assessment scheme is based on a property’s market value-in-use, not some hypothetical use that zoning regulations might permit. 50 IAC 2.3-1-1; 50 IAC 2.4-1-1. The Petitioner’s conclusory assertions are insufficient evidence of the market value-in-use of the property. Whitley, 704 N.E.2d at 1119.

38. The Petitioner failed to make a prima facie case that the land was over-valued for 2010 or 2012.

39. When a taxpayer fails to provide probative evidence supporting the position that an assessment should be changed, the Respondent’s duty to support the assessment with substantial evidence is not triggered. See Lacy Diversified Indus. v. Dep’t of Local Gov’t Fin., 799 N.E.2d 1215, 1221-1222 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2003); Whitley, 704 N.E.2d at 1119.