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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ind. Decisions - Two opinions yesterday from Tax Court

In Big Foot Stores LLC v. Franklin Twp. Assessor, Mill Twp. Assessor, et al., a 10-page opinion, Judge Fisher writes:

On appeal, Big Foot asserts that the Indiana Board erred in upholding the 2003 interim assessments of its real property for two reasons. First, Big Foot asserts that interim assessments may be made only when there has been a change to the property that increases or decreases its value. Alternatively, Big Foot asserts that its interim assessments were improper because they were essentially the result of “sales chasing,” “selective reappraisals,” or “spot assessments.”[5] The Court will address these claims in turn.

Authority to reassess in the interim: Big Foot contends that the interim assessments of its property were improper, as neither the physical state nor the actual use of the properties changed since their 2002 assessments. As a result, Big Foot claims that its properties' 2002 assessed values should have been carried forward to the 2003 tax year. In contrast, the Assessors maintain that the interim assessments were authorized under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-9-1, given that the sales disclosure forms had caused them to believe that the properties were undervalued. The Court agrees with the Assessors. * * *

Spot Assessments: Next, Big Foot contends that the Indiana Board erred in upholding these interim assessments, as the Assessors “admitted” that they were actually “spot assessments:” the Assessors agreed that while there were approximately 40-50 convenience stores throughout Grant County in 2003, Big Foot's stores were the only ones to be reassessed because they had been sold. In turn, Big Foot maintains that these “spot assessments” should be rejected because the assessing community generally recognizes that engaging in such "practice[s] is unprofessional in that it breeds inequities and, unless adjusted for, renders sales ratio studies invalid." Accordingly, Big Foot asks that the Indiana Board's final determinations be reversed and that its 2002 assessments be reinstated. * * *

Whether the interim assessments of two recently sold classes of property (i.e., convenience stores and office buildings) may be upheld when unsold properties of the same classifications and within the same taxing jurisdiction were not reassessed is one of first impression in Indiana. The Court, however, saves its analysis of that issue for another day, as the case at bar can be resolved on other grounds.[8] * * *

Consequently, the Indiana Board erred when it upheld Big Foot's 2003 interim assessments, as they were based on market value-in-use evidence which had no probative value with respect to the appropriate valuation date.

CONCLUSION: For the above stated reasons, the final determinations of the Indiana Board are REVERSED. The matter is REMANDED to the Indiana Board so that it may instruct the appropriate assessing officials to reinstate the assessed values assigned to Big Foot's properties during the 2002 tax year.
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[5] [8] ILB - These footnotes are too long to quote here, but are important reading.

In Wayne Robey v. Fairfield Township Assessor (NFP), a 12-page opinion, Judge Fisher writes:
Wayne Robey (Robey) challenges the final determination of the Indiana Board of Tax Review (Indiana Board) which upheld the Fairfield Township Assessor’s (Assessor) assessment of his real property for the 2004 and 2005 tax years (years at issue). While Robey raises several issues on appeal, the Court consolidates and restates them as: whether the Indiana Board’s final determination was improper. * * *

Robey claims that during the Indiana Board hearing, he presented probative evidence which demonstrated that his property’s assessed value was incorrect. More specifically, Robey explains that he presented: (1) a value-in-use method which demonstrated that his land assessment was not uniform and equal with other comparable land; (2) a land comparison method which established that the actual market value-in-use of his land was $5,500; (3) evidence that his house should have received a condition rating of fair; and (4) a linear interpolation method which established that his property’s total actual market value-in-use was only $12,700. Robey requests that the Court reverse the Indiana Board’s final determination based on the totality of this evidence. * * *

For the above stated reasons, the final determination of the Indiana Board is AFFIRMED.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 10, 2009 11:00 AM
Posted to Ind. Tax Ct. Decisions