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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ind. Decisions - "The Court is well aware that this decision has the potential to open the floodgates for petition to correct error appeals by finding, as it must, that no statutory or regulatory time limitation exists after April 1, 2000."

In Joseph & Jeanne Hutcherson v. Robin L. Ward, Hamilton County Assessor, a 12-page opinion filed Dec. 27th, Judge Wentworth writes:

The Hutchersons appeal the Indiana Board of Tax Review’s final determination denying them the homestead standard deduction on their Hamilton County property for the tax years 2004 through 2007. The Assessor has filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction or alternatively, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Court denies the Assessor’s Motion. * * *

The Assessor first contends that the Hutchersons failed to state a claim upon which the court can grant relief because the Petition to Correct Error Statute requires a taxpayer to file a petition to correct error within three years after the taxes were first due. (See Resp’t Mot. Dismiss at 2-4.) Conspicuously absent from the Petition to Correct Error Statute, however, is an express time limitation within which a taxpayer must file the petition. See generally IND. CODE § 6-1.1-15-12 (2013). Moreover, no statutory language limiting the time in which to file a petition to correct error exists anywhere in Chapter 15. See IND. CODE 6-1.1-15 (2013). * * *

The Assessor further contends that the Hutchersons’ claim is time barred by the Refund Statute * * * The Refund Statute expressly imposes a three year limitation period for filing a claim for a refund. I.C. § 6-1.1-26-1(2). The Assessor asserts that the statute of limitations contained in the Refund Statute applies to the Hutchersons’ petitions to correct error because the remedy they seek, although unspecified other than by the word “correct,” can be only a refund or a credit. * * * The Assessor’s reasoning is incorrect.

First, as mentioned above, the Petition to Correct Error Statute contains no express limitation period. See I.C. § 6-1.1-15-12. Accordingly, without a specific reference to the provisions of the Refund Statute in the Petition to Correct Error Statute, the Court cannot presume that the Legislature intended to incorporate provisions of the Refund Statute into the Petition to Correct Error Statute. * * *

Second, disparate requirements contained in the Refund Statute and Petition to Correct Error suggest their independence. * * *

Finally, even if the word “correct” falls within Gundersen’s broad definition of the word “refund,” and thus operates to incorporate the requirements of the Refund Statute into the Petition to Correct Error Statute, the result would be an absurdity. The Court cannot select one provision from a statute for incorporation into another statute without the express direction of a statute or other authority. * * *

The Court is well aware that this decision has the potential to open the floodgates for petition to correct error appeals by finding, as it must, that no statutory or regulatory time limitation exists after April 1, 2000. Moreover, the Court strongly supports the important public policy favoring limitations of claims. * * * Nonetheless, the Court declines to invade the domain of the Legislature and write in a limitations period where none exists. * * * It is the role of our elected Legislature, not of the Judiciary, to determine public policy. * * * The Court ardently urges the Legislature or the Department of Local Government Finance to act with all haste to provide security against stale claims arising under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-12.

For all the reasons stated above, the Court DENIES the Assessor’s Motion to Dismiss the Hutchersons’ claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Moreover, the Tax Court REVERSES the Indiana Board’s final determination that the Hutchersons’ petitions to correct error for 2004 through 2007 were untimely, and REMANDS for action consistent with this opinion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 29, 2013 10:54 AM
Posted to Ind. Tax Ct. Decisions