Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Board Finds it has no Jurisdiction Over Claim for Property Tax Refund

Excerpts of the Board's Determination follow:

The Petitioner is not challenging the subject property’s assessed value.  Further, the Petitioner did not offer any evidence or argument as to the assessed value.  In fact, the current assessment for March 1, 2009, is not even part of the record. Thus, the Board has no valuation evidence before it to address.

Instead, the Petitioner requests the Board to order a refund on taxes paid resulting from the March 1, 2009, assessment.  However, the Board is a creation of the legislature, and it has only those powers conferred by statute.  Matonovich v. State Bd. of Tax Comm’rs, 705 N.E.2d 1093, 1096 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1999). The relevant statute is Ind. Code § 6-1.5-4-1, which provides as follows:

(a)    The Indiana Board shall conduct an impartial review of all appeals concerning:

(1)    The assessed valuation of tangible property;
(2)    Property tax deductions;
(3)    Property tax exemptions; or
(4)    Property tax credits;

That are made from a determination by an assessing official or county property tax assessment board of appeals to the Indiana board under any law.

(2) Appeals described in this section shall be conducted under IC 6-1.1-15.

Ind. Code § 6-1.5-4-1.

As the Respondent acknowledged, another statute does give the Board the authority to review claims for refund in very limited circumstances.  Specifically, Ind. Code § 6-1.1-26-1 provides as follows:

A person, or his heirs, personal representative, or successors, may file a claim for the refund of all or a portion of a tax installment which he has paid.  However, the claim must be:

(1)    Filed with the auditor of the county in which the taxes were originally paid;
(2)    Filed within three (3) years after the taxes were first due;
(3)    Filed on the form prescribed by the state board of accounts and approved by the department of local government finance; and
(4)    Based upon one (1) of the following grounds:
(A)   Taxes on the same property have been assessed and paid more than once for the same year.
(B)   The taxes, as a matter of law, were illegal
(C)   There was a mathematical error either in the computation of the assessment upon which the taxes were based or in the computation of the taxes.

Ind. Code § 6-1.1-26-1.

If the taxpayer has complied with the provisions of Ind. Code § 6-1.1-26-1, then the Board has the authority to decide denials of claims under Ind. Code § 6-1.1-26-3.  Indiana Code § 6-1.1-26-3(b) provides:

(b)   If the claim for refund is disapproved by either the county auditor, the county treasurer, or the county assessor, the claimant may appeal that decision to the Indiana board.  The claimant must initiate the appeal and the Indiana board shall hear the appeal in the same manner that assessment appeals are heard by the Indiana board.

Ind. Code § 6-1.1-26-3(b).

However, the appeal does not involve any of the circumstances contemplated by Ind. Code § 6-1.1-26-1, so Ind. Code § 6-1.1-26-3 is not triggered.  Moreover, the Petitioner did not follow the procedure required to initiate a review under either statute.

Thus, neither the Board’s enabling statute, nor any other statute, grants any power to review refunds or order the issuance of a refund to a taxpayer.  Given the clear language of the statutes, the Board lacks the subject matter jurisdiction to afford the Petitioner the relief that it seeks with regard to a refund of any taxes resulting from the March 1, 2009, assessment.

Further, even if the Board had the authority to decide this case, the Board is unable to find any grounds for which to find for the Petitioner.  Again, there is no evidence on the record regarding the subject property’s March 1, 2009, assessment, and therefore no conclusive evidence that the assessment was ever actually reduced for that year.  Also, any assumption that the March 1, 2009, assessment should have been reduced simply because the assessment was reduced in subsequent years is misguided.  Each assessment and tax year stands alone.  See Thousand Trails, Inc. v. State Bd. of Tax Comm’rs, 747 N.E.2d 1072, 1077 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2001); Quality Stores, Inc. v. State Bd. of Tax Comm’rs, 740 N.E.2d 9939, 942 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2000); Barth, Inc. v. State Bd. of Tax Comm’rs, 699 N.E.2d 800, 805 n.14 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1998).  This principle is consistent with the fact that under Indiana’s current assessment system, the valuation date for each assessment year is different.