Thursday, June 26, 2014

Board Finds Taxpayer's Evidence Failed to Support a Reduction in the Property's Value

Excerpts of the Board's Determination follow:

22. In a proceeding concerning property that is not residential, a party to an appeal may introduce evidence of the assessments of any relevant, comparable property. I.C. § 6-1.1-15-18. However, preference shall be given to comparable properties that are located in the same taxing district or within two (2) miles of a boundary of the taxing district. The determination of whether properties are comparable shall be made using generally accepted appraisal and assessment practices. Id.

23. A petitioner seeking review of a determination of an assessing official has the burden to establish a prima facie case proving that the current assessment is incorrect and specifically what the correct assessment would be. See Meridian Towers East & West v. Washington Twp. Assessor, 805 N.E.2d 465, 478 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2003); see also, Clark v. State Bd. Of Tax Comm’rs, 694 N.E.2d 1230, 1234 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1998).

24. The Petitioner did not argue for a specific assessment for the properties. It did argue that the 100% influence factor should be removed from each of the parcels. Smith testimony.

25. “Influence factor” refers to a condition peculiar to the lot that dictates an adjustment to the estimated value to account for variations from the base lot on which the base unit land value for the subject property is predicated. See REAL PROPERTY ASSESSMENT GUIDELINES for 2011 (Incorporated by reference at 50 IAC 2.4-1-2(c)), Bk. 1 Ch. 2 at 9, 70-71.

26. In making its case, the taxpayer must explain how each piece of evidence is relevant to the requested assessment. See Indianapolis Racquet Club, Inc. v. Washington Twp. Assessor, 802 N.E.2d 1018, 1022 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2004). ([I]t is the taxpayer’s duty to walk the Indiana Board ….through every element of the analysis.”)

27. Regardless of the method used to rebut an assessment’s presumed accuracy, a party must explain how its evidence relates to market value-in-use as of the relevant valuation date. O’Donnell, 854 N.E.2d at 95. See also, Long v. Wayne Twp. Assessor, 821 N.E.2d 466, 471 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2005).

28. While Petitioner did provide the property record cards for the subject property and two properties offered as comparable to the subject property, Petitioner failed to provide the Board with a detailed explanation or analysis as to how the comparable properties specifically compare to the subject property. Petitioner simply argues that because the assessor did not apply the same positive influence factor to properties that Petitioner concludes are comparable to the subject property, the influence factor on the subject property should be removed. Petitioner made the same argument in a previous case to no avail. See Kooshtard Property VIII, LLC, v. Shelby County Assessor, 987 N.E.2d 1178 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2013). In Kooshtard the court determined: “Kooshtard did not present any market-based evidence to support its claim; instead, Kooshtard merely concluded that because the Assessor did not apply the same positive influence factor of 100% to a nearby office building, automotive sales/service center, and fast food restaurant, the factor should be removed from its assessment.” Id. at 1181. The court went on to hold that such conclusory statements are insufficient to make a prima facie case because they are not probative evidence. Id.

29. The information provided by Petitioner is insufficient for the Board to conclude that these properties are in fact comparable to the subject property. A hearing officer does not have an affirmative duty to make a case on behalf of a party. North Park Cinemas, Inc. v. State Board of Tax Comm’rs, 689 N.E.2d 765, 769 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1997).

30. Accordingly, the Petitioner failed to establish a prima facie case that there is an error in the 2012 assessment of the subject property. See Eckerling, 841 N.E.2d at 674 (stating that “when a taxpayer chooses to challenge an assessment, he or she must show that the assessor’s assessed value does not accurately reflect the property’s market value-in use.)

31. The Petitioner also offered the case of Love and Kiwala v. Porter County Ass’r, Petition No. 64-025-07-1-5-00008, in support of its argument. Smith testimony, Pet’r Exhibit 4. As with the case at hand, Petitioners in Love argued that the assessment of their property is too high. In support of their argument, Petitioners in Love presented a spreadsheet showing the sales prices and assessed values for seven properties that sold in their taxing district in the two years previous to the assessment year at issue in their appeal. They also provided assessment information for each of the properties sold and a sales disclosure form for each sale. Id. at 2. The Petitioner in the instant case offered no such sales-based studies of the subject property taxing district and offered no ratio study to support its argument. In the Love case the Board concluded that the Petitioner had presented a prima facie case that their property’s level of assessment was not uniform and equal with other properties in their neighborhood for the assessment year at issue. Id. at 4. It also concluded that the Respondent in Love had failed to rebut or impeach the Petitioner’s evidence. Id. at 7. In the case at hand, Petitioner failed to establish a prima facie case that their property was assessed incorrectly. In addition, the Respondents in this case presented substantive, credible testimony and documentary evidence supporting the assessment of the property. The facts of the Love case are readily distinguishable from the case at hand.

32. The Respondent’s duty to offer substantial evidence of the correct assessment was 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). Thus the Board will not review the Respondent’s evidence.