DANIEL KOEHLER v. GAIL MCCANN BEATTY, ASSESSOR, JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI

STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI

DANIEL KOEHLER, )
Complainant(s), ) Appeal No. 21-30104
v. ) Parcel/locator No(s): 61-440-09-38-00-0-00-000
GAIL MCCANN BEATTY, )
ASSESSOR, JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI, )
Respondent. )

DECISION AND ORDER

Daniel Koehler (Complainant) appeals the Jackson County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property owned by C.C.K. LLC, on January 1, 2021, was $1,800,000. Complainant does not have standing in the appeal. As Complainant does not have standing to prosecute the appeal, the State Tax Commission (STC) is without jurisdiction and must dismiss.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On April 20, 2022, Respondent, through counsel, Jennifer Ware, filed a Motion to Dismiss on the grounds that Complainant had not established that he was the record owner of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, and thus failed to follow administrative procedure. The Motion alleged “on October 15, 2021, C.C.K., LLC was listed as the owner of the property according to Jackson County records and according to Jackson County records, KPS Equity Capital LLC purchased the property on February 25, 2022.” Respondent further requested that the Motion be heard. On April 20, 2022, Complainant sent responsive email correspondence to the Commission stating the property owners had given him permission to file the appeal and act as their agent regarding the 2021 tax year. With this correspondence, Complainant attached a “Sale Contract Signed 1204 6-11-21” for the subject property, which includes a section 22, titled “tax appeal.” Complainant’s correspondence notes that “the seller granted express permission in section 22 for [Complainant] to file an appeal on their behalf, and that this right would continue after closing.”

On May 11, 2022, a hearing on the Motion to Dismiss was conducted. Complainant appeared pro se.   Respondent was represented by counsel, Jennifer Ware. At the hearing, Respondent argued that Complainant failed to provide evidence of ownership for the subject property as of January 1, 2021, and that Complainant’s contract was insufficient evidence of Complainant’s ownership of the subject parcel in that appeal because, based on the existing county records, C.C.K. LLC was the owner of said property when the appeal was filed. Complainant testified at the hearing that he was neither an attorney nor the owner of the property on January 1, 2021, but he was authorized to bring the appeal for the owners by the power granted within the contract language.

FINDINGS OF FACT

  1. Subject Property. The subject property is commercial real property located at 1204 SW Jefferson St, Lees Summit, Jackson County, Missouri. It is identified by parcel locator number 61-440-09-38-00-0-00-000.
  2. Valuation. The BOE determined the TVM for the subject property on January 1, 2021, is $1,800,000.
  3. Jurisdiction. The STC lacks authority or jurisdiction over this appeal because Complainant was not the owner of the subject property and did not have the statutory right to appeal.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND DECISION

Appeals to the local board of equalization shall be made by the aggrieved taxpayer in the manner required by law. Section 137.275.[1]

Every owner of real property or tangible personal property shall have the right to appeal from the local boards of equalization to the state tax commission. Section 138.430.1.

Upon compliance with Missouri law and the rules set by the State Tax Commission (STC), in any appeal taken to the STC from the local board of equalization, a natural person may represent himself/herself in the proceedings before the STC. 12 CSR 30-3.010(1) and (2). The county assessor, but not the deputy, may represent his/her office in such proceedings. Id. All others must appear through an attorney licensed to practice law in Missouri or in another jurisdiction. Id. As this statutory authority and the STC’s administrative rules provide, a taxpayer must have standing in order to prosecute an appeal before this tribunal and is prohibited from representing others unless he or she is a licensed attorney.

Complainant filed this appeal with the STC in his name. Complainant testified he is not a licensed attorney acting to represent the property owners. In the Complaint for Review of Assessment, Complainant signed his name stating that he is the aggrieved taxpayer. However, Complainant has not shown that he owned the subject property on January 1, 2021. In Missouri, ownership is conveyed through a deed. Section 442.380 provides “Every instrument in writing that conveys any real estate, or whereby any real estate may be affected, in law or equity, proved or acknowledged and certified in the manner herein prescribed, shall be recorded in the office of the recorder of the county in which such real estate is situated.” The parties agree a deed transferring ownership to Complainant was recorded on February 25, 2022. Therefore, Complainant’s ability to appeal did not occur until that date. Complainant did submit a signed contract from the owner that conveys him the right to bring any appeal for the subject property. However, a contract does not give Complainant standing in these appeals, ownership does. Section 138.430.1. Therefore, because Complainant has not proven ownership, Complainant cannot proceed with this appeal.  See Id.

Further, Complainant cannot remedy that defect now. Although in a different context, we find the Court’s decision in Bray v. Lee, 620 S.W.3d 278 (Mo. App. E.D. 2021), instructive. The Court held that a purported property owner failed to establish that he had an ownership interest or some other legally protectable interest in the property at issue in that case at the time the alleged damages occurred or at the time the litigation was commenced and that he could not cure that defect at a later time during the action. Id. at 281-283.

CONCLUSION AND ORDER

 Complainant was not the owner of the subject property and did not have the statutory right to appeal. Therefore, for the reasons stated above, Complainant’s appeal is dismissed.

Application for Review

            A party may file with the Commission an application for review of this decision within 30 days of the mailing date set forth in the certificate of service for this decision. The application “shall contain specific detailed grounds upon which it is claimed the decision is erroneous.”  Section 138.432.  The application must be in writing, and may be mailed to the State Tax Commission, P.O. Box 146, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146, or emailed to Legal@stc.mo.gov.  A copy of the application must be sent to each person listed below in the certificate of service.

Failure to state specific facts or law upon which the application for review is based will result in summary denial. Section 138.432.

Disputed Taxes

The Collector of Jackson County, as well as the collectors of all affected political subdivisions therein, shall continue to hold the disputed taxes pending the possible filing of an application for review, unless said taxes have been disbursed pursuant to a court order under the provisions of section 139.031.

SO ORDERED June 3, 2022.

STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI

Erica M. Gage

Senior Hearing Officer

Certificate of Service

I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been electronically mailed and/or sent by U.S. Mail on June 3, 2022, to:

Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.

Amy S. Westermann

Chief Counsel

[1] All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.

ERIC KUHLMANN v. JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR, ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI

STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI

ERIC KUHLMANN, )
Complainant, ) Appeal No. 21-10206
v. ) Parcel No. 21W630183
JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR, )
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI, )
Respondent. )
)

DECISION AND ORDER AMENDED NUNC PRO TUNC[1]

Eric Kuhlmann (Complainant) appeals the St. Louis County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $468,300.  Complainant alleges overvaluation and asserted during the hearing that the TVM was $385,500.[2]  Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence of overvaluation.  The BOE decision is affirmed.  The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $468,300.

The evidentiary hearing was held on March 31, 2022, via Webex.  Complainant appeared pro se.  Respondent Jake Zimmerman, Assessor, St. Louis County, Missouri, was represented by counsel, Tim Bowe.

FINDINGS OF FACT

  1. The Subject Property. The subject residential real property is located at 17880 Westhampton Woods Dr., Wildwood, Missouri.  The subject property consists of a 0.53 acre lot that includes a 2,456 square-foot single family ranch-style home, with three bedrooms and three bathrooms.  The home was built in 2001.  Complainant purchased the subject property in 2013 for $385,000.
  2. Assessment and Valuation. The BOE determined the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $468,300.  The BOE decision indicates this value represents a reduction from Respondent’s appraised value of $512,400.
  3. Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant introduced Exhibit A and Exhibit B.  Respondent did not object to either Exhibit.   Exhibits A and B were admitted into evidence.

Exhibit A consists of printout information from Zillow.com and the St. Louis County Real Estate Information website concerning the property located at 1352 Westhampton Woods Ct., Wildwood, MO 63005, which Complainant believes is comparable to the subject property.  Exhibit A shows that the property consists of a 0.46 acre lot with a ranch-style 2,410 square foot home that was built in 1996.  Exhibit A states that the house has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and that the property had an appraised value of $389,900 as of January 1, 2021.  Exhibit A does not contain any sales data for the property.

Exhibit B consists of printout information from Zillow.com and the St. Louis County Real Estate Information website concerning the property located at 1408 Wellington View Ln., Chesterfield, MO 63005, which Complainant believes is comparable to the subject property. Exhibit B shows that the property consists of a 0.44 acre lot with a ranch-style 2,453 square foot home built in 1995.  Exhibit B states that the house has four bedrooms and two bathrooms, and that the property had an appraised value of $389,500 as of January 1, 2021.  Exhibit B does not contain any sales data for the property.

Complainant testified the subject property is similar to those contained in Exhibits A and B and stated that it should be appraised at a similar true value in money (TVM) as those properties.

  1. Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent introduced Exhibit 1, the BOE’s October 29, 2021 Decision Letter.  Complainant did not object.  Exhibit 1 was admitted into evidence.
  2. Value. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $468,300.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

  1. Assessment and Valuation.

Pursuant to Article X, Sections 4(a) and 4(b), Mo. Const. of 1945 real property and tangible personal property is assessed at its value or such percentage of its value as may be fixed by law for each class and for each subclass. Article X, Sections 4(a) and 4(b), Mo. Const. of 1945.  Residential real property is assessed at 19% of its TVM as of January 1 of each odd-numbered year.  Section 137.115.5(1)(a).  The TVM is “the fair market value of the property on the valuation date[.]”  Snider v. Casino Aztar/Aztar Mo. Gaming Corp., 156 S.W.3d 341, 346 (Mo. banc 2005) (internal quotation omitted).  The fair market value is “the price which the property would bring from a willing buyer when offered for sale by a willing seller.”  Mo. Baptist Children’s Home v. State Tax Comm’n, 867 S.W.2d 510, 512 (Mo. banc 1993).  “True value in money is defined in terms of value in exchange not value in use.”  Tibbs v. Poplar Bluff Assocs. I, L.P., 599 S.W.3d 1, 7 (Mo. App. S.D. 2020) (internal quotation omitted).  “Determining the true value in money is an issue of fact for the STC.”  Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 348 (Mo. App. E.D. 2008).

“For purposes of levying property taxes, the value of real property is typically determined using one or more of three generally accepted approaches.”  Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 346. The three generally accepted approaches are the cost approach, the income approach, and the comparable sales approach.  Id. at 346-48.  The STC has wide discretion in selecting the appropriate valuation method but “cannot base its decision on opinion evidence that fails to consider information that should have been considered under a particular valuation approach.”  Id., at 348.

The comparable sales approach “is most appropriate when there is an active market for the type of property at issue such that sufficient data are available to make a comparative analysis.”  Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 348.  For this reason, the comparable sales approach is typically used to value residential property.  “The comparable sales approach uses prices paid for similar properties in arms-length transactions and adjusts those prices to account for differences between the properties.”  Id. at 347-48 (internal quotation omitted).  “Comparable sales consist of evidence of sales reasonably related in time and distance and involve land comparable in character.”  Id. at 348.

2. Evidence.

“Although technical rules of evidence are not controlling in administrative hearings, fundamental rules of evidence are applicable.” Mo. Church of Scientology v. State Tax Comm’n, 560 S.W.2d 837, 839 (Mo. banc 1977). The hearing officer is the finder of fact and determines the credibility and weight of the evidence.   Kelly v. Mo. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., Family Support Div., 456 S.W.3d 107, 111 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015).  “It is within the purview of the hearing officer to determine the method of valuation to be adopted in a given case.” Tibbs v. Poplar Bluff Assocs. I, L.P., 599 S.W.3d 1, 9 (Mo. App. S.D. 2020).   The hearing officer “may inquire of the owner of the property or of any other party to the appeal regarding any matter or issue relevant to the valuation, subclassification or assessment of the property.”  Section 138.430.2. The Hearing Officer’s decision regarding the assessment or valuation of the property may be based solely upon his inquiry and any evidence presented by the parties, or based solely upon evidence presented by the parties. Id.

3. Complainant’s Burden of Proof.

The taxpayer bears the burden of proof and must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property was overvalued.  Westwood P’ship v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152, 161 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003).  The BOE’s valuation is presumptively correct. Tibbs, 599 S.W.3d at 7.  The “taxpayer may rebut this presumption by presenting substantial and persuasive evidence that the valuation is erroneous.”  Id. (internal quotation omitted).  The taxpayer also must prove “the value that should have been placed on the property.” Id.           “Substantial evidence is that evidence which, if true, has probative force upon the issues, and from which the trier of fact can reasonably decide the case on the fact issues.”  Savage v. State Tax Comm’n, 722 S.W.2d 72, 77 (Mo. banc 1986) (internal quotation omitted).  Evidence is persuasive when it has “sufficient weight and probative value to convince the trier of fact.”  Daly v. P.D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645, 651 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002); see also White v. Dir. of Revenue, 321 S.W.3d 298, 305 (Mo. banc 2010) (noting the burden of persuasion is the “party’s duty to convince the fact-finder to view the facts in a way that favors that party”).

4. Complainant Did Not Produce Substantial and Persuasive Evidence of Overvaluation.

Complainant testified he believed that the subject property should be appraised at the same value as properties that he found to be similar, namely those contained in Exhibits A and B.  However, Complainant offered no substantial and persuasive evidence that these homes had sold recently, or at what price they sold for.  Additionally, Complainant did not make any market-based adjustments to the comparable properties in Exhibits A and B to account for any differences between them and the subject property.  There was no evidence establishing that Complainant is an appraiser or has appraisal training and experience in order to make value comparisons between properties.

The comparable sales approach is typically used to value residential properties improved with a single-family home.  “The comparable sales approach uses prices paid for similar properties in arms-length transactions and adjusts those prices to account for differences between the properties.”  Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 347-48 (internal quotation omitted).

While a property owner’s opinion of value is generally admissible, the opinion lacks “probative value where it is shown to have been based upon improper elements or an improper foundation.”  Shelby Cty. R-IV Sch. Dist. v. Herman, 392 S.W.2d 609, 613 (Mo. 1965); see also Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 349 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008) (noting a property owner’s opinion of value loses probative value when it rests on an improper foundation).  The comparable sales approach requires sales.  Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 347-48.  Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence showing that the subject property was overvalued based on comparable sales data.  Therefore, Complainant’s evidence does not provide the necessary foundation and elements to support his overvaluation claim.   Because the STC “cannot base its decision on opinion evidence that fails to consider information that should have been considered” under a recognized approach to value, Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 348, the BOE decision is affirmed.

CONCLUSION AND ORDER

The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $468,300, with an assessed value of $88,977.

Application for Review

A party may file an application for review of this decision within 30 days of the mailing date set forth in the certificate of service for this decision.  The application “shall contain specific detailed grounds upon which it is claimed the decision is erroneous.”  Section 138.432.  The application must be in writing, and may be mailed to the State Tax Commission of Missouri, P.O. Box 146, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146, or emailed to Legal@stc.mo.gov.  A copy of the application must be sent to each person listed below in the certificate of service.  Failure to state specific facts or law upon which the application for review is based will result in summary denial.  Section 138.432.

Disputed Taxes

The Collector of St. Louis County, and the collectors of all affected political subdivisions therein, shall continue to hold the disputed taxes pending the possible filing of an application for review, unless the disputed taxes have been disbursed pursuant to a court order under the provisions of section 139.031.

SO ORDERED June 3, 2022.

Benjamin C. Slawson

Senior Hearing Officer
State Tax Commission

Certificate of Service

I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been electronically mailed and/or sent by U.S. Mail on June 3, 2022, to: Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.

Amy S. Westermann
Chief Counsel

[1] This Decision and Order is amended nunc pro tunc to correct a scrivener’s error in the case caption identifying the appeal number. This Decision and Order and its date of issue remains otherwise unchanged.

[2] Complainant timely filed a complaint for review of assessment. The State Tax Commission (STC) has authority to hear and decide Complainant’s appeal.  Mo. Const. art. X, sec. 14; Section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000.  All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.

CORY ASHFORD v. LORI JONES, ASSESSOR, ATCHISON COUNTY, MISSOURI

STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI

CORY ASHFORD, )
Complainant(s), ) Appeal No. 21-41000
v. ) Parcel/locator No(s): 10-20-05-22-04-034-000300
LORI JONES, ASSESSOR, )
ATCHISON COUNTY, MISSOURI, )
Respondent. )

DECISION AND ORDER

 Cory Ashford (Complainant) appeals the Atchison County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $63,000. Complainant claims the property is overvalued and proposes a value of $50,000.  Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing overvaluation. The BOE’s decision is affirmed.[1] Complainant appeared pro se.   Respondent was represented by counsel, Dan Smith. The evidentiary hearing was conducted on May 6, 2022.

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. Subject Property. The subject property is located at 206 S. Broadway, Fairfax, Atchison County, Missouri. The parcel/locator number is 10-20-05-22-04-034-000300. The subject property consists of a 1,303 square foot, single family ranch style home. The subject property features two bedrooms, one bathrooms, two car garage, deck and a basement.

2. Respondent and BOE. Respondent classified the subject property as residential and determined the TVM on January 1, 2021, was $63,000. The BOE classified the subject property as residential and independently determined the TVM on January 1, 2021, was $63,000.

3. Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant testified the TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was between $40,000 and $50,000. Complainant submitted Exhibit A, which includes pictures, a video, and a signed contract with Thrasher, Inc. for basement repairs, all of which are admitted into evidence. Complainant testified the property’s value decreased dramatically due to a flood caused by a levy break in May 2019 and submitted his photographs and video of the home during and after the flooding. (Exhibit A) Complainant testified that his property had 15 inches of water in the basement due to the flooding of the creek on his property, which was overflowing due to the levy break on the Missouri River. Complainant testified that he did some minor drywall repairs in June or July 2019. Complainant’s evidence includes a contract to which he has paid a $3,195.42 deposit for the repairs to his home, which would total $16,818.00. (Exhibit A) Complainant testified he had no flood insurance as his home was not in a flood zone. He testified his basement was not used as a bedroom but is used as a laundry area as of the date of the hearing. Complainant testified the house has not flooded again since May 2019. Complainant testified he is not a licensed appraiser or a person possessing appraisal training. Complainant submitted no appraisal of the subject property. Complainant testified he was aware of a similar property listed for sale which flooded and based his estimations of value in part on that home’s similarities.

4. Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent submitted the testimony of Lori Jones and Exhibit 1, Restricted Appraisal Report, conducted by appraiser Cris G. Wilmes.[2] Complainant objected to the admittance of Exhibit 1, due to untimeliness, as the “Order Setting Evidentiary Hearing” stated the document should be served on all parties seven days prior to the hearing. Ms. Jones testified that due to circumstances beyond her control, the exhibit was received from a third party on May 5, 2022, and, as soon as it was received, it was shared with all parties. In Missouri, “[c]ontested administrative proceedings are not subject to the technical rules of evidence, but the fundamental rules of evidence applicable to civil cases also are applicable in such administrative hearings.”  State ex rel. Heck v. City of Pac., 616 S.W.3d 387, 393 (Mo. App. E.D. 2020) (internal quotation omitted). Section 536.070(2) provides “each party … shall have the right . . . to introduce exhibits.”  Except for the Section 536.070(5) procedures for the admission of agency records, “[n]o mention is made of other procedures for admission of exhibits as a part of the record” in a contested case. Mo. Church of Scientology v. State Tax Comm’n, 560 S.W.2d 837, 839 (Mo. banc 1977).  Therefore, the procedure outlined within the STC Order is controlling over the issue. “The fundamental basis upon which all rules of evidence must rest – if they are to rest upon reason – is their adaptation to the successful development of the truth.”  Funk v. United States, 290 U.S. 371, 381 (1933). The late submission of the exhibit is not found to be willful or deliberate as Ms. Jones testified it was shared as soon as it was received, which was also prior to the hearing itself. Exhibit 1 is admitted into evidence as its admittance is in furtherance of successful development of the truth per Funk. Ms. Jones testified she has been Assessor for 32 years and has experience as a Residential Real Estate Appraiser. In Exhibit 1, Mr. Wilmes utilized the sales comparison approach to estimate the January 1, 2021, market value of the subject property. Mr. Wilmes concluded the market value was $65,000 in Exhibit 1. Ms. Jones testified she agreed with Exhibit 1’s conclusions. Ms. Jones testified that in her opinion as an appraiser, the flooding caused no permanent damage to the subject property.

5. Value. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $63,000.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

  1. Assessment and Valuation

Pursuant to Article X, Sections 4(a) and 4(b), Mo. Const. of 1945 real property and tangible personal property is assessed at its value or such percentage of its value as may be fixed by law for each class and for each subclass.  Article X, Sections 4(a) and 4(b), Mo. Const. of 1945.  Residential real property is assessed at 19% of its TVM as of January 1 of each odd-numbered year.  Section 137.115.5(1)(a). “True value in money is the fair market value of the property on the valuation date, and is a function of its highest and best use, which is the use of the property which will produce the greatest return in the reasonably near future.”  Snider v. Casino Aztar/Aztar Mo. Gaming Corp., 156 S.W.3d 341, 346 (Mo. banc 2005) (internal quotation omitted).  The fair market value is “the price which the property would bring from a willing buyer when offered for sale by a willing seller.”  Mo. Baptist Children’s Home v. State Tax Comm’n, 867 S.W.2d 510, 512 (Mo. banc 1993).   Determining the TVM is a factual issue for the STC.  Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 348 (Mo. App. E.D. 2008). The “proper methods of valuation and assessment of property are delegated to the Commission.”  Savage v. State Tax Comm’n, 722 S.W.2d 72, 75 (Mo. banc 1986).

 “For purposes of levying property taxes, the value of real property is typically determined using one or more of three generally accepted approaches.”  Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 346.  The three generally accepted approaches are the cost approach, the income approach, and the comparable sales approach.  Id. at 346-48; see also St. Louis Cty. v. Sec. Bonhomme, Inc., 558 S.W.2d 655, 659 (Mo. banc 1977).

The comparable sales approach “is most appropriate when there is an active market for the type of property at issue such that sufficient data are available to make a comparative analysis.”  Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 348.  For this reason, the comparable sales approach is typically used to value residential property.  “The comparable sales approach uses prices paid for similar properties in arms-length transactions and adjusts those prices to account for differences between the properties.”  Id. at 347-48 (internal quotation omitted).  “Comparable sales consist of evidence of sales reasonably related in time and distance and involve land comparable in character.”  Id. at 348.

  1. Evidence

The hearing officer is the finder of fact and determines the credibility and weight of the evidence.   Kelly v. Mo. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., Family Support Div., 456 S.W.3d 107, 111 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015).  The finder of fact in an administrative hearing determines the credibility and weight of expert testimony.  Hornbeck v. Spectra Painting, Inc., 370 S.W.3d 624, 632 (Mo. banc 2012).  “It is within the purview of the hearing officer to determine the method of valuation to be adopted in a given case.” Tibbs v. Poplar Bluff Assocs. I, L.P., 599 S.W.3d 1, 9 (Mo. App. S.D. 2020).   The hearing officer “may inquire of the owner of the property or of any other party to the appeal regarding any matter or issue relevant to the valuation, subclassification or assessment of the property.”  Section 138.430.2. The Hearing Officer’s decision regarding the assessment or valuation of the property may be based solely upon his inquiry and any evidence presented by the parties, or based solely upon evidence presented by the parties. Id.

  1. Complainant’s Burden of Proof

The BOE’s valuation is presumptively correct.  Rinehart v. Laclede Gas Co., 607 S.W.3d 220, 227 (Mo. App. W.D. 2020).  To prove overvaluation, a taxpayer must rebut the BOE’s presumptively correct valuation and prove the “value that should have been placed on the property.”  Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 346.  The taxpayer’s evidence must be both “substantial and persuasive.”  Id.  “Substantial evidence is that evidence which, if true, has probative force upon the issues, and from which the trier of fact can reasonably decide the case on the fact issues.”  Savage, 722 S.W.2d at 77 (internal quotation omitted).  Evidence is persuasive when it has “sufficient weight and probative value to convince the trier of fact.”  Daly v. P.D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645, 651 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002); see also White v. Dir. of Revenue, 321 S.W.3d 298, 305 (Mo. banc 2010) (noting the burden of persuasion is the “party’s duty to convince the fact-finder to view the facts in a way that favors that party”). A taxpayer does not meet his burden if evidence on any essential element of his case leaves the STC “in the nebulous twilight of speculation, conjecture and surmise.”  See, Rossman v. G.G.C. Corp. of Missouri, 596 S.W.2d 469, 471 (Mo. App. 1980).

  1. Complainant Did Not Prove Overvaluation.

Complainant’s evidence alleges the subject property’s value is between $40,000 and $50,000. Complainant’s argument in support of this value is that Respondent’s methods of mass assessment fail to value individual properties properly and various repair issues affecting the overall condition of the subject property do not support any increase in the TVM of the subject property. Complainant’s submission of pictures and testimony regarding condition is not a method used to find a TVM for a property. The comparable sales approach is the method used to determine the TVM of the subject property. “The comparable sales approach uses prices paid for similar properties in arms-length transactions and adjusts those prices to account for differences between the properties.”  Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 347-48 (internal quotation omitted). Complainant’s evidence does not make adjustments to comparable properties to find a proper appraisal comparison. While a property owner’s opinion of value is generally admissible, the opinion “is without probative value where it is shown to have been based upon improper elements or an improper foundation.”  Shelby Cty. R-IV Sch. Dist. v. Herman, 392 S.W.2d 609, 613 (Mo. 1965); see also Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 349 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008) (noting a property owner’s opinion of value loses probative value when it rests on an improper foundation). Complainant presented no appraisal of the subject property in order to determine a value of the subject property. See Cohen, 251 S.W.3d at 349 (holding a landowner’s opinion of value lacks probative value when there is “no other evidence as to what he based his opinion on or how he arrived at his opinion of [value]”). Complainant’s alleged valuation is based on improper elements and therefore is speculative. Overall, the condition issues submitted by Complainant are not persuasive evidence to demonstrate how the value of the subject property is $40,000 to $50,000.

The assertions within Complainant’s testimony, which discuss Respondent’s supposed errors in methodology and alleged incorrect assessments, are not substantial and persuasive evidence that the BOE’s valuation of the subject property is erroneous. General assertions about the shortcomings of the methodology of Respondent and how such methodology causes increases to certain properties do not speak specifically as to the TVM of the subject property.

Although not required given the burden of proof, Respondent presented Exhibit 1 and testimony that the data in Exhibit 1 supported the BOE’s valuation of the subject property. Respondent’s evidence persuasively supports the TVM of $63,000.

CONCLUSION AND ORDER

The BOE decision is affirmed.  The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $63,000.

Application for Review

A party may file with the Commission an application for review of this decision within 30 days of the mailing date set forth in the certificate of service for this decision. The application “shall contain specific detailed grounds upon which it is claimed the decision is erroneous.”  Section 138.432.  The application must be in writing, and may be mailed to the State Tax Commission, P.O. Box 146, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146, or emailed to Legal@stc.mo.gov.  A copy of the application must be sent to each person listed below in the certificate of service.

Failure to state specific facts or law upon which the application for review is based will result in summary denial. Section 138.432.

Disputed Taxes

The Collector of Atchison County, as well as the collectors of all affected political subdivisions therein, shall continue to hold the disputed taxes pending the possible filing of an application for review, unless said taxes have been disbursed pursuant to a court order under the provisions of section 139.031.

SO ORDERED June 3, 2022.

STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI

Erica M. Gage

State Tax Commission

Certificate of Service

I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been electronically mailed and/or sent by U.S. Mail on June 3, 2022, to:

Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.

Amy S. Westermann

Chief Counsel

[1] Complainant timely filed a complaint for review of assessment.  The State Tax Commission (STC) has authority to hear and decide Complainant’s appeal.   Mo. Const. art. X, Section 14; section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000.  All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.

[2] The exhibit at issue consisted of statements made by individuals not present at the evidentiary hearing. Hearsay evidence is objectionable because the person who makes the statement offered is not under oath and is not subject to cross-examination.” Saint Louis Univ. v. Geary, 321 S.W.3d 282, 291 (Mo. banc 2009). Exhibit 1 is hearsay given that no foundation was laid for its admission, but Complainant made no objection to its admittance; therefore, the exhibit is admitted and given the weight deemed appropriate.

CONNIE LAWYER v. SUSAN CHAPMAN, ASSESSOR, TANEY COUNTY, MISSOURI

STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI

CONNIE LAWYER, )
Complainant(s), ) Appeal No. 21-89535
v. ) Parcel/locator No:  18-6.0-23.001-002-007.015
SUSAN CHAPMAN, ASSESSOR, )
TANEY COUNTY, MISSOURI, )
Respondent. )

DECISION AND ORDER

Connie M. Lawyer (Complainant) appeals the assessment made by Susan Chapman, Assessor, Taney County, Missouri, (Respondent) determining the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $59,469 with an assessed value (AV) of $19,030, classified as commercial property. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence to support the asserted claims of overvaluation and misclassification. The assessment of Respondent is affirmed.[1]

Facts

The evidentiary hearing was scheduled for May 31, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. Respondent timely appeared at the evidentiary hearing in person and through counsel Travis Elliott. Complainant did not appear. Complainant did not seek a continuance or otherwise communicate any intent to proceed with the appeal.

Complainant Did Not Prove Overvaluation

The taxpayer bears the burden of proof and must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property was overvalued. Westwood P’ship v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152, 161 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003). Complainant did not appear at the evidentiary hearing and produced no evidence admitted into the record to support the overvaluation and misclassification claims. Complainant’s failure to appear and to present any evidence necessarily means Complainant fails to meet Complainant’s burden of proof. [2]

CONCLUSION AND ORDER

The assessment made by Respondent is affirmed.  The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, is $59,469 with an AV of $19,030, classified as commercial property.

Application for Review

A party may file with the STC an application for review of this decision within 30 days of the mailing date set forth in the certificate of service for this decision. The application “shall contain specific detailed grounds upon which it is claimed the decision is erroneous.”  Section 138.432.  The application must be in writing, and may be mailed to the State Tax Commission, P.O. Box 146, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146, or emailed to Legal@stc.mo.gov.  A copy of the application must be sent to each person listed below in the certificate of service.

Failure to state specific facts or law upon which the application for review is based will result in summary denial. Section 138.432.

Disputed Taxes

The Collector of Taney County, as well as the collectors of all affected political subdivisions therein, shall continue to hold the disputed taxes pending the possible filing of an application for review, unless said taxes have been disbursed pursuant to a court order under the provisions of section 139.031.

SO ORDERED June 3, 2022.

STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI

Amy S. Westermann

Chief Counsel

Certificate of Service

I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been electronically mailed and/or sent by U.S. Mail on June 3, 2022, to:

Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.

Amy S. Westermann

Chief Counsel

[1]Complainant timely filed a complaint for review of assessment directly with the State Tax Commission after receiving the first notice of a change in assessment through a tax bill dated December 22, 2021.  The deadline for appealing to the local BOE was the second Monday in July, which was July 12, 2021.  Under 12 CSR 30-3.010(1)B.1, a property owner may appeal directly to the STC (a) where the assessor fails to notify the current owner of the property of an initial assessment or an increase in assessment from the previous year, prior to 30 days before the deadline for filing an appeal to the board of equalization, including instances in which real property was transferred and the prior owner was notified, or (b) where a new owner purchased real property less than 30 days before the deadline for filing an appeal to the BOE or later in the tax year, regardless if the assessment is an initial assessment, an increase or decrease in assessment, or an assessment established in the prior year.  Appeals under either of these provisions must be filed within 30 days after a county official mailed a tax statement or otherwise first communicated the assessment or the amount of taxes to the owner or on or before December 31 of the tax year in question, whichever is later.  Proof of late notice, the date of purchase, and/or notice sent to the prior owner shall be attached to, or set forth in, the complaint. The State Tax Commission (STC) has authority to hear and decide Complainant’s appeal.  Mo. Const. art. X, Section 14; section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000.  All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.

[2] For over 150 years, Missouri law has recognized the self-evident proposition that “if there be no evidence sufficient in law to make a prima facie case on this issue, plaintiff cannot be entitled to recover.” Callahan v. Warne, 40 Mo. 131, 135 (Mo. 1867).

GEORGE HOLMES v. GAIL MCCANN BEATTY, ASSESSOR, JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI

STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI

GEORGE HOLMES, )
Complainant(s), ) Appeal Nos. 21-30186
v. ) Parcel/locator No(s):  28-430-29-06-00-0-00-000
GAIL MCCANN BEATTY, ASSESSOR, )
JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI, )
Respondent. )

DECISION AND ORDER

 George Holmes (Complainant) filed his Complaint for Review of Assessment with the State Tax Commission (STC) alleging overvaluation in the 2021 valuation assessment of the subject property for ad valorem purposes. Gail McCann Beatty, Assessor, Jackson County, Missouri, (Respondent) filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on the ground that the STC does not have jurisdiction to review the assessment because Complainant did not appeal the assessment to the Jackson County Board of Equalization (BOE) by the statutory deadline. Respondent’s Motion to Dismiss is granted. Complainant’s appeal is dismissed.

The evidentiary hearing was scheduled for May 11, 2022, at 3:00 p.m. Respondent timely appeared at the evidentiary hearing, through counsel, Jennifer Ware. Complainant did not appear. Complainant did not seek a continuance or otherwise communicate any intent to proceed with the appeal.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The parties attended a pre-hearing conference in this appeal on February 23, 2022.  During the pre-hearing conference, discussion was had regarding a BOE decision for the subject property, which is not in the case files The hearing officer reviewed the documentation in the case file following the pre-hearing conference to determine if the STC had authority to hear the appeal.

On May 6, 2022, Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss, alleging the STC lacks jurisdiction to hear the appeal. Specifically, Respondent asserted that “appeal must be lodged with the county clerk before the second Monday in July to be considered timely” pursuant to Section 137.385[1] and “Complainant did not lodge a timely appeal with the Board of Equalization for the 2021 tax year”. On May 11, 2022, at the hearing, Respondent argued that Complainant’s appeal was not filed with BOE; thus, the BOE did not hear the appeal and did not issue any decision regarding the appeal.  Complainant did not appear at the evidentiary hearing for the appeal and did not submit any evidence regarding the existence of a BOE decision.

FINDINGS OF FACT

  1. Subject Property. The subject property is located at 2503 Benton Blvd., Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri. It is identified by parcel locator number 28-430-29-06-00-0-00-000.
  2. Valuation. Respondent determined the TVM for the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $165,000.
  3. Jurisdiction. The STC lacks authority or jurisdiction over this appeal because Complainant did not timely file the appeal with the BOE.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND DECISION

 Any person aggrieved by the assessment of his property may appeal to the county board of equalization. Section 137.385.  An appeal shall be in writing and the forms to be used for this purpose shall be furnished by the county clerk.  Id.  Such appeals shall be lodged with the county clerk as secretary of the board of equalization before the second Monday in July; provided, that the board may in its discretion extend the time for filing such appeals.  Id.

Every owner of real property or tangible personal property shall have the right to appeal from the local boards of equalization to the STC under rules prescribed by the STC, within the time prescribed in this chapter or 30 days following the final action of the local board of equalization, whichever date later occurs, concerning all questions and disputes involving the assessment against such property, the method or formula used in determining the valuation of such property, or the assignment of a discriminatory assessment to such property.  Section 138.430.

As a general rule, courts will refrain from acting until the litigants have exhausted all available administrative remedies provided by statute. In establishing a system for levying of taxes and the appeal of property tax assessments, including those set out in Sections 138.060, 138.430 and 139.031, the General Assembly has properly charged administrative agencies with responsibilities associated with the determination of property valuation methods as well as the actual assessment of property.  Missouri Retired Teachers Foundation v. Estes, 323 S.W.3d 100, 104 (Mo. App. W.D. 2010).

The doctrine of exhaustion of remedies is a jurisdictional requirement.  Pessin v. State Tax Com’n, 875 S.W.2d 143 (Mo. App. E.D. 1994).  Where an administrative remedy is available, a court will generally require a litigant to exhaust the administrative remedy before assuming jurisdiction.  Premium Standard Farms, Inc. v. Lincoln Township, 946 S.W.2d 234, 237 (Mo. banc 1997); Willamette Indus., Inc. v. Clean Water Comm’n, 34 S.W.3d 197, 201 (Mo. App. W.D. 2000).

Under the statutory framework of Chapter 137, the General Assembly created the local boards of equalization and gave them the duty to hear and determine taxpayers’ appeals from an assessor’s valuation of property.  There can be no dispute that the General Assembly never intended to allow taxpayers to appeal to the STC without first appealing to the local boards of equalization.[2]

As an administrative agency, the STC’s authority is limited to that granted expressly or necessarily implied by statute.  See United Pharmacal Co. of Mo., Inc. v. Mo. Bd. of Pharmacy, 208 S.W.3d 907, 913 (Mo. banc 2006).  The authority to dismiss an untimely appeal is necessarily implied from the statutory grant of authority to hear and decide appeals filed within definite deadlines.  See Oberreiter v. Fullbright Trucking, 24 S.W.3d 727, 729 (Mo. App. E.D. 2000) (holding an agency has inherent authority to dismiss an untimely claim).

The STC’s authority to review an appeal from the BOE is “derivative or appellate in nature and hence the power or jurisdiction of the Commission [is] no more extensive than that possessed by the [BOE].”  Foster Bros. Mfg. Co. v. State Tax Comm’n, 319 S.W.2d 590, 595 (Mo. 1958); see also Armstrong-Trotwood, LLC v. State Tax Comm’n, 516 S.W.3d 830, 837 (Mo. banc 2017) (holding the Commission’s authority to consider an appeal “is derivative” of the BOE).  Therefore, a lack of BOE appeal leaves the STC with nothing to review.

The record reveals that the appeal was not filed timely with the BOE.  The lack of a timely filing of the appeal to the BOE denies the STC of any jurisdiction to hear an appeal and leaves the STC with nothing to review in this matter.

CONCLUSION AND ORDER

 The value for the subject property for the tax year 2021[3] remains $165,000.

Application for Review

A party may file with the Commission an application for review of this decision within 30 days of the mailing date set forth in the certificate of service for this decision. The application “shall contain specific detailed grounds upon which it is claimed the decision is erroneous.”  Section 138.432.  The application must be in writing, and may be mailed to the State Tax Commission, P.O. Box 146, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146, or emailed to Legal@stc.mo.gov.  A copy of the application must be sent to each person listed below in the certificate of service.

Failure to state specific facts or law upon which the application for review is based will result in summary denial. Section 138.432.

Disputed Taxes

The Collector of Jackson County, as well as the collectors of all affected political subdivisions therein, shall continue to hold the disputed taxes pending the possible filing of an application for review, unless said taxes have been disbursed pursuant to a court order under the provisions of section 139.031.

SO ORDERED June 3, 2022.

STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI

Erica M. Gage

Senior Hearing Officer

State Tax Commission

Certificate of Service

I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been electronically mailed and/or sent by U.S. Mail on June 3, 2022, to:

Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.

Amy S. Westermann

Chief Counsel

[1] All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.

[2] Under its rulemaking authority, the STC has promulgated 12 CSR 30-3.010(1)(B)1, which provides that taxpayers may file appeals directly with the STC in two limited circumstances, neither of which apply here:

(a) where the assessor fails to notify the current owner of the property of an initial assessment or an increase in assessment from the previous year, prior to thirty (30) days before the deadline for filing an appeal to the board of equalization, including instances in which real property was transferred and the prior owner was notified, or

(b) where a new owner purchased real property less than thirty (30) days before the deadline for filing an appeal to the board of equalization or later in the tax year, regardless if the assessment is an initial assessment, an increase or decrease in assessment, or an assessment established in the prior year.

[3] The assessed value shall also apply to the following even-numbered year (2022) except for new construction and property improvements. See Section 137.115.