STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|KENT WOLLARD ASSESSOR||)|
|RAY COUNTY, MISSOURI||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Gary Friend (Complainant) appeals the Ray County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding the fair market value of the residential portion of the subject property on January 1, 2019 was $79,980. Complainant does not appeal the agricultural valuation. Complainant claims the residential portion of the subject property was overvalued and the assessment was discriminatory.
The hearing officer conducted an evidentiary hearing. Complainant did not present substantial and persuasive evidence establishing overvaluation or discrimination. The BOE’s decision is AFFIRMED.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- The Subject Property
- The subject property is located at 33151 OO Highway, Lawson, Missouri. The parcel/locator number is 05-02-09-00-000-007.001.
- The subject property consists of an approximately 18.6 acre lot and a house. 13.6 acres of the lot is classified as agricultural, with 5 acres classified as residential. The house is classified as residential.
- The house is approximately 37 years old. The house has approximately 1,296 square feet. The house is a one level earth contact home. It has 2 bedrooms, 1 full bathroom, and 1 half bathroom. The home has electric baseboard heating and a wood stove. The home has no central air or heating. The entire home is carpeted. The exterior is wood siding. The roof is asphalt shingles. The subject property has a 2-car detached garage.
- Respondent initially determined fair market value of the residential property was $79,980 and the value of the agricultural land was $3,490, yielding a total value of $83,470.
- The BOE Decision
- The BOE sustained Respondent’s valuation and set the “total market value” of the subject property at $83,470.
- Complainant’s Appeal
- Complainant timely appealed the BOE decision to the State Tax Commission (Commission).
- Complainant alleged the subject property was overvalued and subjected to a discriminatory assessment.
- Overvaluation Claim
- At the evidentiary hearing, Complainant proceeded with his overvaluation claim alleging Respondent overvalued the residential property.
- Complainant submitted exhibits A-D. Each exhibit was admitted into evidence without objection. Complainant’s exhibits were as follows:
|Exhibit A||Insurance Policy|
|Exhibit B||Notice of Change of Assessment|
|Exhibit C||News Article|
|Exhibit D||BOE Decision|
Complainant testified that he felt the valuation of Complainant and the BOE are incorrect. He testified the home is in need of repairs and updating. He testified his septic system is in need of updating.
- Complainant asserted the fair market value of the residential property is $73,730.
- Respondent submitted Exhibits 1-7. Each exhibit was admitted into evidence without objection. Complainant’s exhibits were as follows:
|Exhibit 1-4||Property Record Card|
|Exhibit 5||History of Subject Property|
|Exhibit 6||Sales Statistics Before Re-Assessment|
|Exhibit 7||Sales Statistics After Re-Assessment|
Respondent’s exhibits show basic information about the subject property including square footage, rooms, style, amenities, and the values and classifications attributed to the land and dwelling.
- Discrimination Claim
- Complainant presented no evidence of an intentional plan by Respondent to assess the subject property at a greater percentage of value than other residential properties in Ray County. Complainant presented no evidence of the overall assessment ratio of residential property in Ray County.
- The fair market value of the residential portion of the subject property, as of January 1, 2019, is $79,980. The assessed value is $15,200.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
The Commission has authority, “under such rules as may be prescribed by law, to hear appeals from local boards in individual cases and, upon such appeal, to correct any assessment which is shown to be unlawful, unfair, arbitrary or capricious.” Mo. Const. art. X, § 14. Section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000, authorizes the Commission to hear appeals concerning assessment, valuation, the method or formula used in determining valuation, or the assignment of a discriminatory assessment. “The commission shall investigate all such appeals and shall correct any assessment or valuation which is shown to be unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary or capricious.” Id. “To hear and decide appeals pursuant to section 138.430, the commission shall appoint one or more hearing officers.” Section 138.431.1. The hearing officer “shall issue a decision and order affirming, modifying, or reversing the determination of the board of equalization, and correcting any assessment which is unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary, or capricious.” Section 138.431.5.
- True Value in Money
All real property and tangible personal property must be assessed at its value or a percentage of its value as fixed by law for each class and for each subclass. Mo. Const. art. X, sec. 4(a), 4(b). Section 137.115.5(1) (a) provides residential property is assessed at 19% of its true value in money. The true value in money “is an estimate of the fair market value on the valuation date.” Hermel, Inc. v. State Tax Comm’n, 564 S.W.2d 888, 897 (Mo. banc 1978). 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 true value in money is a factual issue. Parker v. Doe Run Co., 553 S.W.3d 356, 360 (Mo. App. 2018).
- Evidentiary Standards
The hearing officer is the trier of fact and determines the credibility and weight of the evidence. Citizens for Rural Pres., Inc. v. Robinett, 648 S.W.2d 117, 132 (Mo. App. 1982); see also Exch. Bank of Mo. v. Gerlt, 367 S.W.3d 132, 136 (Mo. App. 2012) (the trier of fact determines credibility and is free to disbelieve all or part of a party’s evidence). The hearing officer is not bound by any single formula, rule or method in determining true value in money, and “is free to consider all pertinent facts and estimates and give them such weight as reasonably they may be deemed entitled to.” St. Louis Cty. v. State Tax Comm’n, 515 S.W.2d 446, 450 (Mo. 1974); see also Kelly v. Mo. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., Family Support Div., 456 S.W.3d 107, 111 (Mo. App. 2015) (the relative weight of any relevant factor is for the administrative hearing officer to decide). “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
A taxpayer challenging the assessment, valuation, the method or formula used in determining valuation, or the assignment of a discriminatory assessment bears the burden of proving the assessment or valuation was “unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary or capricious.” Section 138.430.1; Westwood P’ship v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152, 161 (Mo. App. 2003).
The BOE’s valuation is presumed correct, but the taxpayer may rebut this presumption with “substantial controverting evidence.” Hermel, Inc. v. State Tax Comm’n, 564 S.W.2d 888, 895 (Mo. banc 1978) (quoting Cupples Hesse Corp. v. State Tax Comm’n, 329 S.W.2d 696, 702 (Mo. 1959)). Substantial evidence is evidence which “has probative force upon the issues . . . and from which the trier of fact can reasonably decide the case on the fact issues.” Cupples Hesse, 329 S.W.2d at 702 (internal quotation omitted).
If the taxpayer produces substantial evidence rebutting the BOE presumption, “the burden of proof on the facts and inferences would still rest on petitioner, for it is the moving party seeking affirmative relief.” Cupples Hesse, 329 S.W.2d at 702. To prevail, the taxpayer must produce “persuasive” evidence sufficient to convince the trier the disputed fact has been established. White v. Dir. of Revenue, 321 S.W.3d 298, 305 (Mo. banc 2010); see also Daly v. P.D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645, 651 (Mo. App. 2002) (evidence is persuasive when it has “sufficient weight and probative value to convince the trier of fact”).
Complainant testified about the age of his home. He testified it is in need of updates and repair. Complainant offered no evidence of the true value in money of the residential portion of the subject property, as of January 1, 2019. Complainant did testify that he felt the valuation was incorrect.
The hearing officer concludes Complainant’s testimony and exhibits do not constitute substantial evidence rebutting the BOE presumption. Because Complainant did not produce substantial evidence rebutting the BOE presumption, Complainant cannot meet his burden of proving overvaluation. Complainant’s overvaluation claim is denied.
- Discriminatory Assessment
The United States and Missouri constitutions prohibit discriminatory taxation of similarly situated taxpayers. See U.S. Const. amend. XIV; Mo Const. art. X, § 3. “A taxpayer has the right to have his assessment reduced to the percentage of that value at which others are taxed. . . .” Savage v. State Tax Comm’n of Missouri, 722 S.W.2d 72, 79 (Mo. banc 1986) (internal quotation omitted). Absent proof of intentional discrimination, the analysis of discrimination claims compares the assessment level of similarly situated properties to the actual assessment level for the subject property. Id. at 78.
There was no evidence of an intentional plan of discrimination or of the average or median assessment level of similarly situated residential properties in Ray County. Complainant’s discrimination claim is denied.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE decision is affirmed. The true value in money of the residential portion of the subject property is $79,980. The residential assessed value is $15,200. In that the agricultural decision of the BOE was not challenged, the true value in money of the entire subject property is $83,470. The entire assessed value is $15,620.
Application for Review
A party may file with the Commission an application for review of this decision within thirty days of the mailing date set forth in the certificate of service for this decision. The application shall contain specific facts or law as grounds upon which it is claimed the decision is erroneous. Said application must be in writing addressed to the State Tax Commission of Missouri, P.O. Box 146, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, and a copy of the application must be sent to each person listed below in the certificate of service.
Failure to state the specific facts or law upon which the application for review is based will result in summary denial. Section 138.432.
The Collector of Ray 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 139.031.8 RSMo.
Any finding of fact which is a conclusion of law or decision shall be so deemed. Any decision which is a finding of fact or conclusion of law shall be so deemed.
SO ORDERED December 3, 2019
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
John J. Treu
Senior Hearing Officer
 Complainant and the Ray County Assessor (Respondent) appeared pro se.
 All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.
 In 1992, the General Assembly eliminated the statutory presumption in favor of the assessor’s valuation. Section 138.060.1 provides “[t]here shall be no presumption that the assessor’s valuation is correct.” The plain language of the statute negates the former presumption the assessor’s valuation is correct, but leaves intact the longstanding presumption the BOE’s valuation is correct. Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 348 n.2 (Mo. App. 2008); see also Parker, 553 S.W.3d at 360.