Proceed with Caution – Indiana property tax appeals:  Burden of proof shifts for “aberrational” assessments; appealing $50 penalty for failure to appear at County Board hearing; omitting untimely exhibits

Proceed with Caution – Indiana property tax appeals: Burden of proof shifts for “aberrational” assessments; appealing $50 penalty for failure to appear at County Board hearing; omitting untimely exhibits

 

The burden of proof shifts to the Assessor for “aberrational” assessments

The burden of proof shifts to the Assessor for “aberrational” assessments in Indiana property tax appeals.

A 5%+ assessment increase is “aberrational” where the property has not substantially changed year-to-year, so the Assessor carries the burden of proof.  I have previously posted about Indiana’s adoption of a burden-shifting statute in property tax appeals.  See, for example, my discussions here and here.  Why did the Indiana General Assembly create this rule?  The answer (according to the Indiana Board of Tax Review):  Because the assessor should lose the presumption that her “aberrational” assessment is correct.  In a recent ruling, the Board explained:

The Board interprets the statute as a recognition by the Legislature that an increase in assessed valuation in excess of 5% from one year to the next, under typical market conditions, is aberrational.  Consequently, under such circumstances, the assessor should lose the presumption that the assessment is correct.  Similarly, the Legislature has recognized that an increase in an assessment in excess of 5% would not necessarily be aberrational if there were substantial changes in the property that were not considered in the prior year and, under such circumstances, the assessor should retain the presumption that the assessment is correct.

Bosley v. Orange County Assessor, Pet. No. 59-011-12-1-1-00004 ¶ 15 (Oct. 10, 2014).  In this 2012 assessment appeal, the Assessor argued that Taxpayer’s property had substantially changed since its 2011 assessment, nullifying the burden-shift.  When has a property “substantially changed”?  The Board explained that the “nature of this review is fact-sensitive and must be considered on a case-by-case basis.”  (Page 4, ¶ 16.)  Here, the 2012 assessment reflected modifications deemed “significant” by the Board.  (Page 4, ¶ 19.)  Consequently, Taxpayer had the burden of proof.  Id.

Taxpayer owes $50 – not $450 – for failure to appear at single hearing for nine parcelsIn Connors v. Benton County Assessor, Pet. No. 04-002-13-1-8-00001 et al. (Aug. 26, 2014) (March 1, 2013 assessment), the Owner appealed the values of nine parcels.  The County Board gave notice of the local hearing.  Due to a personal emergency, Owner failed to appear at the hearing.  Owner lost and was issued a $50 invoice for each of the nine appeals – a total of $450 – due to his failure to appear.  Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-1(l) assigns a $50 penalty to a taxpayer who fails to appear “at the hearing.”  The Indiana Board found that the County Board had scheduled one hearing for the nine parcels – not nine distinct hearing times.  Therefore, only one $50 penalty should have been assessed.  (Page 4, ¶ 15.)

Additional procedural note.  Owner assumed the values of the parcels would be considered at the Indiana Board hearing.  But Owner identified only the assessments of the penalties as the issues on his Form 131 appeal petitions, not the valuations of the nine parcels.  The Board noted that it will consider only issues raised in the petitions in small claims matters.  (Page 4, ¶ 11 n.2.)

Exhibits not exchanged timely were omittedThe Indiana Board excluded a taxpayer’s exhibits submitted on the day of the administrative hearing, not five business days before the hearing as required by the Board’s rules.  Co-Way Rens, LLC v. Jasper County Assessor, Pet. No. 37-027-12-1-4-00001 Page 3, ¶ ¶  11-12 (Sept. 26, 2013) (March 1, 2012 assessment).

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