State Tax Commission of Missouri
|BLESSINGS INVESTMENTS LLC,||)|
|v.||)||Appeal Number 07-11376|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
St. Louis County Board of Equalization’s assessment SET ASIDE. Complainant presented substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the Board of Equalization.
True value in money and assessment ratio for the subject property for tax year(s):
|True Value 2007-2008||Assessment Ratio||Assessed Value|
Complainant appeared by counsel, Thomas Campbell. Respondent appeared by Attorney Edward Corrigan.
Case heard and decided by Hearing Officer Maureen Monaghan.
Complainant appeals, on the grounds of overvaluation and discrimination, the decision of the County Board of Equalization. Having considered all of the competent evidence upon the whole record, the Hearing Officer finds that the Complainant failed to present substantial and persuasive evidence as to overvaluation, however, the Complainant presented substantial and persuasive evidence as to discrimination. The following Decision and Order is entered.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction over this appeal is proper. Complainant timely appealed to the State Tax Commission from the decision of the County Board of Equalization.
- Schedule and Procedure. On June 20, 2014, the State Tax Commission issued an Order setting forth the schedule and procedures for this appeal. The Schedule and Procedure required that each party file and exchange exhibits and written direct testimony to establish their case in chief on or before October 3, 2014. Complainant and Respondent filed and exchanged the exhibits set out below under Evidence. Parties had until October 21, 2014, to file objections and rebuttal exhibits. Neither party objected to exhibits. Respondent was ordered to file, on or before November 3, 2014, a Request for Hearing indicating a good faith intention to require a hearing. Respondent did not request a hearing on the appeal. Any pending summary motion judgments or motions otherwise are moot based upon the issuance of the Decision and Order.
- Subject Property. The subject property is identified as follows:
|09J320197||4585 Washington St|
- Assessment. The Assessor made the following determination of value:
|True Value||Commercial Assessed Value|
The Board of Equalization reduced the valuation:
|True Value||Commercial Assessed Value|
- Evidence. Complainant filed with the Commission the following documents: Exhibit A – The Board of Equalization’s finding of true value and Exhibit B – Motion for Summary Judgment. Respondent filed the following documents: Exhibit 1 – The Board of Equalization’s finding of value.
- Median Level of Assessment. The State Tax Commission previously found that the median level of assessment for commercial property in St. Louis County in 2007 is 29.4%. The previous decision is incorporated by reference.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND DECISION
The Commission has jurisdiction to hear this appeal and correct any assessment which is shown to be unlawful, unfair, arbitrary or capricious. 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. Article X, Section 14, Mo. Const. of 1945 Sections 138.430, 138.431, 138.431.4, RSMo.
Basis of Assessment
The Constitution mandates that real property and tangible personal property be 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 The constitutional mandate is to find the true value in money for the property under appeal. By statute real and tangible personal property is assessed at set percentages of true value in money. Section 137.115.5, RSMo
Presumption In Appeals
There is a presumption of validity, good faith and correctness of assessment by the County Board of Equalization. Hermel, Inc. v. STC, 564 S.W.2d 888, 895 (Mo. banc 1978); Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co. v. STC, 436 S.W.2d 650, 656 (Mo. 1968); May Department Stores Co. v. STC, 308 S.W.2d 748, 759 (Mo. 1958)
Section 137.115 of the Missouri Revised Statutes requires that property be assessed based upon its true value in money, which is defined as the price a property would bring when offered for sale by one willing or desirous to sell and purchased by one who is desiring to purchase but who is not compelled to do so. St. Joe Minerals Corp. v. State Tax Commission, 854 S.W.2d 526, 529 (Mo. Ct. App. 1993); Missouri Baptist Children’s Home v. State Tax Commission, 867 S.W.2d 510, 512 (Mo 1993). The value used for the true value in money of a subject property is the fair market value of the subject property on the valuation date. Hermel, Inc. v. STC, 564 SW.2d. 888, 897 (Mo. 1978).
There is a presumption of validity, good faith, and correctness by the County Board of Equalization. Williamson v. Kessinger, Green County Assessor, Appeal No. 11-22003-11-33019 (June 28, 2012); Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345 (Mo. Ct. App. 2008).The case law and the Commission’s decisions have repeatedly held the presumption of a correct assessment may only be rebutted when substantial and persuasive evidence is presented to establish that the Board’s valuation is erroneous. See Cohen, 251 S.W.3d 345; Snider v. Casino Aztar/Aztar Missouri Gaming Corp., 156 S.W.3d 341 (Mo. 2007) (citing Hermel, Inc. v. STC, 564 SW.2d. 888, 895 (Mo. 1978)); Couples Hesse Corp. v. State Tax Commission, 329 S.W.2d 696, 7029.4 (Mo. 1959). In the absence of such evidence, the presumptions are assumed to be correct.
The determination of true value is necessary for both overvaluation and discrimination claims. Complainant submitted as Exhibit A the Board of Equalization’s decision as to the true value in money of the Complainant’s property. The Supreme Court holds that the Commission cannot compel a taxpayer to present evidence in a particular form. State ex rel. Ashby Partners, LLC v State Tax Commission, 297 S.W.3d 80, 88 (Mo. banc 2009). Therefore, complainants are entitled to present evidence of the true value in money of their respective properties in the form of the Board of Equalization decisions. The Hearing Officer’s decision must be based upon its inquiry into relevant matters and evidence presented in the case or solely upon the evidence presented in the case.”
The Complainant’s exhibit establishes true value in money of the subject property. The Complainant’s exhibit does not establish that the property was overvalued. The Complainant’s Exhibit A does satisfy the first prong of the test to prove discrimination.
The purpose of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment is to secure every person within the state’s jurisdiction against discrimination whether it be through intentional violations of the statute or by improper execution of a statute. If a jurisdiction cannot both secure the standard of true value and uniformly and equitably assess property for taxing purposes, “the latter requirement is to be preferred as just and ultimate purpose of law.” A taxpayer whose property is taxed differently from other property within a jurisdiction has the right to have his assessment reduced to the percentage of that value at which the others are taxed. Sioux City Bridge v. Dakota County, 260 U.S. 441 (U.S. S.Ct. 1923)
In order to obtain a reduction in assessed value based upon discrimination, the Complainant must (1) prove the true value in money of their property on January 1, 2007; and (2) show an intentional plan of discrimination by the assessing officials resulting in an assessment of that property at a greater percentage of value than other property, generally, within the same class within the same taxing jurisdiction or show that the level of an assessment is so grossly excessive as to be inconsistent with an honest exercise of judgment. Savage v. State Tax Commission, 722 S.W.2d 72 (Mo. banc 1986); Westwood Partnership v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003.)
As stated previously, the first prong of the test to prove discrimination, determining true value of the property, has been addressed. The next step is to review the assessment of the subject property and properties within the same class.
The median level of assessment for a particular class of real property and the actual assessment imposed on the property of the taxpayer alleging discrimination must be evaluated. Savage 722 S.W.2d at 79. The median level of assessment is determined by (a) independently determining the market value of a representative sample of commercial properties within the County; (b) determining the assessed value placed on the property by the Assessor’s office for the relevant year; (c) dividing the assessed value by the market value to determine the level of assessment for each property in the sample; and (d) determining the mean and median of the results. The Commission, in a previous hearing, held that the median level of assessment for commercial properties in St. Louis County in 2007 was 29.4%. See In The Matter of the 2007 and 2008 Commercial Assessment Ratio of Properties in St. Louis County v. Zimmerman State Tax Commission Appeal 07-08 Ratio (“2007 Ratio Case”).
The subject property’s assessed value as determined by the Assessor was $445,060 using an assessment ratio of 32%. The subject property’s assessed value using a median assessment ratio of 29.4% and the value determined by the Board of Equalization is $362,440; a difference of $82,620. The Complainant established that the assessment was more than a de minimus error in judgment on the part of the assessor.
The assessed valuation for the subject property as determined by the Board of Equalization for St. Louis County for the subject tax day is SET ASIDE. The assessed value for the subject property for tax years 2007 and 2008 is set at $362,440.
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, and a copy of said application must be sent to each person at the address 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, 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 18, 2014.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been mailed postage prepaid on this 18th day of December, 2014, to: Thomas Campbell, 100 South Fourth Street, Suite 1000, St. Louis, MO 63102, Attorney for Complainant; Edward Corrigan, Associate County Counselor, Attorney for Respondent, County Government Center, 41 South Central Avenue, Clayton, MO 63105; Jake Zimmerman, Assessor, County Government Center, 41 South Central Avenue, Clayton, MO 63105; Mark Devore, Collector, County Government Center, 41 South Central Avenue, Clayton, MO 63105.