STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Appeal No. 19-20212
Parcel No. 13410002800
|MICHAEL DAUPHIN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|CITY OF ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Brett Doyle (Complainant) appeals the City of St. Louis Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $188,800, with an assessed value of $35,880. Complainant claims the property is overvalued and proposes a value of $149,600. Complainant did not present substantial and persuasive evidence establishing overvaluation. The BOE’s decision is affirmed.
Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent appeared personally and was represented by counsel Chelsea Mannery.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. Authority. The BOE issued its decision on August 28, 2019. Complainant filed a complaint for review of assessment on September 25, 2019.
2. The Subject Property. The subject property is located at 2127 Allen Avenue in the City of St. Louis, Missouri. The parcel/locator number is 13410002800.
The subject property consists of a lot and a two-story, single-family brick home with approximately 2,320 square feet of living area; four bedrooms; and two and one-half baths. The lot has 27 feet of street frontage and extends approximately 137 feet back from the front lot line. Complainant purchased the subject property in 2010 for $116,000.
3. Assessment. Respondent determined the fair market value of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $188,800. Respondent assessed the subject property at the 19% statutory residential rate, yielding an assessed value of $35,880.
4. Board of Equalization. The BOE determined the fair market value of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $188,000, with an assessed value of $35,870.
5. Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant submitted Exhibits A and B. Both exhibits were admitted into evidence.
Exhibit A is a color photograph of the front of the subject property. Exhibit B is a color photograph of the rear of the subject property. Complainant testified the photographs depict necessary repairs and the fact there was no carport on the subject property when the pictures were taken.
Complainant testified the value of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $149,900. Complainant testified this value estimate is based on comparisons of the Respondent’s assessment of other nearby properties. Complainant did not produce any data or records regarding Respondent’s assessment of nearby properties. Complainant’s evidence does not include an appraisal, a comparable sales analysis or any other data or analysis providing a persuasive showing of overvaluation or the TVM of the subject property.
6. Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent submitted Exhibit 1. Exhibit 1 is an appraisal report of the subject property prepared by Respondent’s staff real property appraiser.
Exhibit 1 utilizes the sales comparison approach to estimate the market value of the subject property from recent sales of three comparable properties. Like the subject property, the comparable properties are all listed in “average” condition. The key property data in Exhibit 1 is as follows:
Subject Property 2318 Russell Blvd. 2263 Missouri Ave. 2248 S. Jefferson Ave.
2 story brick 2 story brick 2 story brick 2.5 story brick
2,230 square feet 2,224 square feet 2,139 square feet 2,348 square feet
2.5 baths 2.5 baths 2.5 baths 2.5 baths
4 bedrooms 3 bedrooms 3 bedrooms 3 bedrooms
The comparable properties are identical to the subject property with respect to the number of bathrooms, condition, and brick construction. They are similar to the subject property with respect to size and number of bedrooms.
7. Value. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019 was $188,800, with an assessed value of $35,870.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
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.
Residential real property is assessed at 19% of its “true value in money” as of January first of each odd-numbered year. Sections 137.115.1, 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 Missouri 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).
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). 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. To rebut the BOE presumption and prevail, 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 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 a “party’s duty to convince the fact-finder to view the facts in a way that favors that party”).
4. Computer-Assisted Valuation
In pertinent part, section 137.115.1 provides:
In the event a valuation of subclass (1) real property within any county with a charter form of government, or within a city not within a county, is made by a computer, computer-assisted method or a computer program, the burden of proof, supported by clear, convincing and cogent evidence to sustain such valuation, shall be on the assessor at any hearing or appeal.
Section 137.115.1 shifts the burden of proof to the assessor only if: (1) the valuation of residential property was “made by” a computer-assisted method; and (2) the assessor seeks to “sustain such valuation.” Even if Respondent’s valuation was computer-assisted, Respondent is not seeking to “sustain such valuation” because Respondent is seeking to affirm the BOE’s independent valuation. The burden shifting provision in section 137.115.1 does not apply.
“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 (Mo. banc 2005). 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.
The hearing officer is the finder of fact and determines both the credibility and weight of the evidence. Kelly v. Missouri Dep’t of Soc. Servs., Family Support Div., 456 S.W.3d 107, 111 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015); Stone v. Missouri Dep’t of Health & Senior Servs., 350 S.W.3d 14, 20 (Mo. banc 2011) (noting that in a contested case, courts defer to administrative agency findings of fact); see also section 536.090 (requiring all decisions and orders in contested cases to include “findings of fact”). 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 is not bound by any single formula, rule or method in determining the 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). “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).
In an STC hearing, Respondent “shall not advocate nor present evidence advocating a valuation higher than that value finally determined by the assessor or the value determined by the board of equalization, whichever is higher, for that assessment period.” Section 138.060.1. Therefore, when Respondent introduces “evidence indicating a higher value than the value finally determined by the assessor or the value determined by the board of equalization … such evidence will only be received for the purpose of sustaining the assessor’s or board’s valuation, and not for increasing the valuation of the property under appeal.” 12 CSR 30-3.075(1).
Respondent’s Exhibit 1 concludes the market value of the subject property is higher than the value determined by the Respondent or the BOE. Respondent, however, did not advocate a value higher than that determined by the BOE. Therefore, Exhibit 1 is admissible as evidence for sustaining the value assigned by the BOE. 12 CSR 30-3.075(1).
7. Complainant Did Not Prove Overvaluation
Complainant’s Exhibit A and B show only that the subject property is a two-story brick home. These photos are not substantial and persuasive evidence rebutting the BOE’s presumptively correct valuation and establishing the TVM of the subject property.
Complainant also testified his opinion of value was informed by Respondent’s assessment of nearby properties. 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 produced no comparable sales analysis or any other specific data or analysis to support his opinion of value. Complainant’s opinion of value lacks a sufficient factual foundation to constitute substantial and persuasive evidence rebutting the BOE’s presumptively correct valuation and establishing the TVM of the subject property.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019, was $188,800 with an assessed value of $35,880.
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 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.
The Collector of the City of St. Louis, 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 September 18, 2020.
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 September 18, 2020, to: Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
Contact Information for State Tax Commission:
Missouri State Tax Commission
421 East Dunklin Street
P.O. Box 146
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146