STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 21-10165|
|)||Parcel No. 24N120747|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Gary Singleton (Complainant) appealed the St. Louis County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding the true value in money (TVM) of the subject residential property was $229,000 as of January, 1, 2021. Complainant alleges overvaluation and discrimination and proposes a value of $200,000. The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $229,000.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- The Subject Property. The subject residential property consists of a single-family home located at 1326 Craig Road in Kirkwood, Missouri.
- Assessment and Valuation. The BOE determined the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $229,000.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant introduced Exhibits A through D. Complainant’s exhibits are summarized as follows:
|Exhibit A||Letter from Complainant|
|Exhibit B||Series of 12 photographs showing the downhill slope from a large, neighboring residence and several mature, dead oak trees Complainant testified were caused by water drainage from the neighboring residence.|
|Exhibit C||BOE Appeal Form showing Complainant proposed a value of $200,000.|
|Exhibit D||Stipulation in appeal 19-10802 showing Complainant and Respondent settled Complainant’s 2019 STC appeal regarding the subject property with a stipulated TVM of $209,000.|
Complainant testified the property taxes on the subject property are difficult to afford because he is a retiree on fixed income. Complainant testified Exhibit D shows the 2021 assessment is excessive because the parties settled the 2019 appeal regarding the subject property with a stipulated value of $209,000.
Complainant also testified the subject property began experiencing excessive water runoff following the construction of a large residence on a neighboring lot. Complainant testified the neighboring residence was constructed in approximately 2013. Complainant testified the resulting water runoff has caused areas of the subject property to be persistently wet, resulting in the death of several large oak trees and some dogwood trees. Complainant testified there is water intrusion into the subject’s basement following heavy rains because of the runoff from the adjacent residence. Complainant testified the home on the subject property needs a new roof and tuck pointing on the chimney. Complainant offered no evidence of comparable sales.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent’s evidence consisted solely of Exhibit 1, a copy of the BOE decision letter determining the subject appraised value as of January 1, 2021, was $229,000.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $229,000.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
- Assessment and Valuation. Residential real property is assessed at 32% of its TVM as of January 1 of each odd-numbered year. Sections 137.115.1; 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).
- 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). “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).
- Complainant’s Burden of Proof. The taxpayer bears the burden of proof and must show by a preponderance of the evidence the property is 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”).
- Complainant Did Not Produce Substantial and Persuasive Evidence of Overvaluation.
Single-family homes are typically valued with the sales comparison approach because of the ready availability of sales data. Complainant did not perform a sales comparison analysis, a comparative market analysis, or any other evidence of market-based transactions of similar homes.
Complainant persuasively testified the property taxes on the subject property are difficult to afford because he is a retiree on fixed income. The undersigned hearing officer, however, is bound by the General Assembly’s directive to review the assessment to determine “the correct valuation to be placed on such property” and to “correct any assessment or valuation which is shown to be unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary or capricious.” Section 138.430.1. As established, the benchmark for assessments is the property’s TVM, or fair market value as of January 1, 2021. Sections 137.115.1; 137.115.5(1)(a). A property’s fair market value does not vary according to the owner’s ability to pay the taxes. Consequently, for purposes of this STC appeal, Complainant’s ability to afford property taxes is not a basis for concluding the subject is overvalued.
Complainant testified Exhibit D shows the parties settled the 2019 appeal regarding the subject property with a stipulated value of $209,000. Complainant testified the 2021 reassessment at $229,000 was made just months after the parties stipulated the value was $209,000. The stipulated value for the 2019 appeal reflects the subject’s value as of January 1, 2019, two years prior to the January 1, 2021, valuation date at issue in this appeal. There is no evidence in the record showing the 9.6% increase in value between January 1, 2019, and January 1, 2021, exceeds the subject’s market-based price appreciation. Exhibit D is not substantial and persuasive evidence showing the subject was overvalued as of January 1, 2021.
Complainant testified the large, neighboring residence created water drainage issues causing the death of several large, mature oak trees as well as several dogwood trees. Given Complainant’s horticultural background and knowledge, his testimony persuasively establishes the tree mortality is a result of the water drainage from the neighboring residence. However, Complainant testified the oak trees died in late 2021, after the January 1, 2021, valuation date. Therefore, oak tree mortality could not be a detriment to the subject’s value as of January 1, 2021. Moreover, even if tree loss was predictable as of January 1, 2021, Complainant offered no evidence showing the impact of the tree loss on the subject market value as of January 1, 2021. Complainant testified it would likely cost between $4,000 and $5,000 to remove the trees, but there is no evidence showing this unverified estimate in fact negatively impacted the subject’s January 1, 2021, market value.
Finally, Complainant testified the drainage issues caused intermittent water intrusion during heavy rains. There is no evidence quantifying the effect, if any, of this water intrusion on the subject’s January 1, 2021, market value. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence of overvaluation.
- Complainant Did Not Produce Substantial and Persuasive Evidence of Discrimination.
Both the United States and Missouri constitutions prohibit discriminatory taxation of similarly situated taxpayers. Savage v. State Tax Comm’n of Missouri, 722 S.W.2d 72, 78 (Mo. banc 1986). To prove discrimination, a property owner must first prove the fair market value of the subject property on the valuation date. Id. After proving fair market value, the property owner can prove discrimination by showing an “intentional systematic undervaluation . . . of other taxable property in the same class.” State ex rel. Ashby Rd. Partners, LLC, v. State Tax Comm’n, 297 S.W.3d 80, 85 (Mo. banc 2009) (internal quotation omitted). In the absence of intentional discrimination, a discrimination claim requires proof that the level of assessment is “so grossly excessive as to be inconsistent with an honest exercise of judgment.” Savage, 722 S.W.2d at 78.
Complainant’s discrimination claim as denominated on the complaint for review of assessment must fail because he did not “first prove the fair market value of the subject property on the valuation date.” Savage, 722 S.W.2d at 78. Further, though not asserted, if Complainant proceeded on the theory the BOE value represented fair market value, the Complainant’s still offered no evidence of discrimination. There is no evidence Respondent singled out Complainant’s property for discriminatory assessment. Nor is there any evidence of “intentional systematic undervaluation . . . of other taxable property in the same class.” Ashby Rd. Partners, 297 S.W.3d at 85. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence of discrimination.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE’s decision finding the subject property’s appraised value was $229,000 as of on January 1, 2021, is affirmed. The TVM as of January 1, 2021, was $229,000.
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.
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 July 1, 2022.
Eric S. Peterson
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 July 1, 2022, to: Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
Amy S. Westermann
 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.
 [(229,000 – 209,000) / 209,000] = 0.956.