STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|BENJAMIN SCOTT ROBERTS,||)||Appeal No. 21-10194|
|)||Parcel No. 30K640892|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Benjamin Scott Roberts (Complainant) appeals the St. Louis County Board of Equalization’s decision valuing the subject residential property at $307,500 as of January 1, 2021. Complainant alleges overvaluation and asserts the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property as $287,700 as of January 1, 2021. The BOE decision is affirmed.
The evidentiary hearing was held on June 9, 2022, via Webex. Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent was represented by counsel, Tim Bowe. The appeal was heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer Benjamin C. Slawson.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- The Subject Property. The subject residential property consists of a 0.22 acre lot improved with a single family home located at 3337 Walworth Way Drive in St. Louis, Missouri. The subject property is located in the Kingsborough subdivision in South County St. Louis. The subdivision contains approximately 48 homes. The house has 2,414 square feet of living space and contains a total of nine rooms, including four bedrooms and two and half bathrooms. Complainant is the original owner and purchased the house in 2003. Complainant moved in to house in 2004 after construction was complete. Complainant has not made any significant improvements in the last three years.
- Assessment and Valuation. Respondent determined that the subject property’s value as of January 1, 2021, was $307,500. The BOE determined the subject property’s appraised value as of January 1, 2021, was $307,500.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant introduced Exhibit A, a chart compiled by Complainant that includes data regarding the subject property, five comparable properties found by Complainant using St. Louis County’s information, and Complainant’s calculations and proposed value based on this data. Exhibit A was admitted without objection.
Complainant, using Exhibit A to illustrate his arguments, testified that the rate of increase of assessment for the subject property from 2019 to 2021 was 14.87%, which is more than double the average rate of increase for three of the five comparable properties he found. Complainant calculated the average rate of increase in assessment for the five properties to be 7.78%. Complainant explained that he arrived at his proposed value of $287,700 by taking the 2020 appraised value of $267,000 and increasing it by this 7.78% average.
Complainant believes this methodology to determine the TVM of the subject property is reasonable based on the fact that his proposed value of $287,700 is still more than his calculated average of all five comparable property’s sales prices, $285,024, and only slightly less than his calculated average of Respondent’s 2021 appraised values for these comparables, $288,808.
Complainant also argued that if you look at the data from a price per square foot basis, his property is overvalued. Using Respondent’s appraised value for 2021, the subject property’s price per square foot is $128.62 compared to the average $118.07 price per square foot of the five comparable properties. Complainant stressed that the three comparable sales in his subdivision were larger homes than the subject, yet had a lower price per square foot than the subject. Complainant did not present Exhibit A or these overvaluation arguments to the BOE. Complainant testified that he is not a licensed appraiser in the State of Missouri.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent introduced Exhibit 1, consisting of the BOE decision letter for the subject property. Exhibit 1 shows the BOE valued the subject property at $307,500. Exhibit 1 was admitted without objection.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $307,500.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
- Assessment and Valuation. Residential real property is assessed at 19% 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). The TVM “is a function of [the property’s] highest and best use[.]” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 346. “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).
The TVM of a property is typically determined by the sales comparison approach, the income approach, or the cost approach. Snider v. Casino Aztar/Aztar Missouri Gaming Corp., 156 S.W.3d at 346-48.
- 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 that 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”).
Property owners are competent to testify to the reasonable fair market value of their property. Cohen, 251 S.W.3d at 348. However, if owner’s testimony is based on “improper elements or an improper foundation[,]” it is not substantial and persuasive evidence rebutting the presumptively correct BOE value. Id. at 349.
- Complainant Did Not Produce Substantial and Persuasive Evidence of Overvaluation.
Complainant proposes a value of $287,700, an amount which he testified he obtained by taking the previous appraised value of the subject determined by Respondent in 2020, $267,000, and increasing it by his calculated average increase of assessment for his five comparables, 7.78%.
Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence rebutting the presumptively correct BOE value. Complainant did not produce evidence supporting a comparable sales approach, income approach, or cost approach to value. Complainant did offer comparable sale data for consideration. However, Complainant’s method of averaging comparable sale appraised value percentage increases from 2019 to 2021, and then multiplying that percentage with the 2019 appraised value for the subject to determine its value in 2021, is not an approach to value that is used in Missouri to determine the TVM of a subject property. Similarly, comparing properties simply on a price per square foot basis is also not an acceptable appraisal method to determine fair market value of a subject. Further, Complainant’s comparable sales were not analyzed using accepted appraisal methods, for example making appropriate market adjustments to determine value of the subject. Finally, Complainant did not offer testimony of an appraiser, nor an appraisal of the property as evidence of the TVM of the property as of January 1, 2021.
The lack of evidence relating to a recognized valuation method renders Complainant’s proposed value speculative and unpersuasive. See Cohen, 251 S.W.3d at 349 (holding an opinion of value loses probative value when based on an improper foundation). Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence showing the BOE overvalued the subject property and “the value that should have been placed on the property.” Tibbs, 599 S.W.3d at 7.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence of overvaluation. The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $307,500, with an assessed value of $58,425.
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 November 4, 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 November 4, 2022, to: Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
 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.