Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Board Finds Taxpayer's 4-H Project Fails to Make Property "Agricultural"

Excerpts of the Board's Determination follow:

22. In this case, the Petitioners contend that a small portion of the subject property’s land should be classified as agricultural rather than residential. The statutory and regulatory scheme for assessing agricultural land requires the Board to treat challenges to those assessments differently than other assessment challenges. Indeed, the Indiana General Assembly directed the DLGF to establish rules for determining the true tax value of agricultural land. Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-13(b). The DLGF, in turn, established a base rate to be used in assessing agricultural land across the State of Indiana.

23. Indiana Code § 6-1.1-4-13 states, however, that “[i]n assessing or reassessing land, the land shall be assessed as agricultural only when it is devoted to agricultural use.” Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-13(a) (emphasis added). The word “devote” means “to attach the attention or center of activities of (oneself) wholly or chiefly on a specified object, field, or objective.” WEBSTER’S THIRD NEW INTERNATIONAL UNABRIDGED DICTIONARY AT 620.

24. Here, the Petitioners’ walking and exercising of animals raised for 4-H fair projects clearly fall short of a devotion to agricultural use. They failed to offer any evidence that their livelihood was in any way dependent on farming or the agricultural use of the subject property. The Petitioners also failed to offer any evidence as to how much time was devoted to walking and exercising the animals on the land. Further, they failed to offer evidence that their activities were “wholly or chiefly” attached to that field. The Petitioners even acknowledged that the livestock was not raised on this property; this property was only used to walk and exercise a few animals. The Board therefore finds that the Petitioners failed to raise a prima facie case that the property’s classification as residential excess acreage is in error.