State Tax Commission of Missouri
|v.||)||Appeal # 15-30299|
|EDWIN STOLL, ASSESSOR,||)|
|JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
The assessment made by the Board of Equalization of Jackson County is AFFIRMED. Complainant did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the Jackson County Board of Equalization. Assessed value in money for the subject property for tax year 2015 is sustained at $150,230 residential ($790,700 TMV).
Complainant Garry Turner appeared pro se.
Respondent appeared in person and by attorney Whitney Miller.
Case heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer John Treu.
Complainant appeals on the ground of overvaluation. Both the Assessor and the Jackson County Board of Equalization set the true market value of the subject property at $790,700.
The Hearing Officer, having considered all of the competent evidence upon the whole record, enters the following Decision and Order.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction over this appeal is proper. Complainant timely appealed to the State Tax Commission.
- Evidentiary Hearing. The Evidentiary Hearing was held on May 19, 2016 at the Jackson County Courthouse, Kansas City, Missouri.
- Identification of Subject Property. The subject property is identified by map parcel number or locator number 35-140-12-08-00-0-00-000. It is further identified as 1601 NW Arrowhead Trail, Jackson County, MO. (Complaint for Review of Assessment).
- Description of Subject Property. The subject residential property consists of a tract of land of 3.35 acres, improved by a single family home built in 1994, with a gross living area of 6,284 square feet. Amenities include 5 bedrooms, 8 full bathrooms, 2 half bathrooms, a 4 car attached garage and a 1 car basement. The property was purchased by Complainant for $350,000 in December of 2009 through a realtor. The seller was a bank. The subject property had deficiencies when purchased; however, such were significantly fixed prior to January 1, 2015 (Exhibit 1 & Testimony).
- Assessment. The Assessor set a true market value on the subject property at $790,700 residential.
- Board of Equalization. The Board of Equalization sustained the true market value of the property.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant offered Exhibits A through E.
|Exhibit A||Original Listing of Property in 2008|
|Exhibit B||Market Analysis by Local Realtor for Blue Springs, MO|
|Exhibit C||Market Analysis by Local Realtor for Independence, MO|
|Exhibit D||Pictures of Subject Property in December, 2009|
|Exhibit E||Comparables by Complainant (Listings and Not Sales)|
All exhibits were objected to. Exhibits B & C were excluded from the record as the realtor was not present for cross examination. The objections as to Exhibits A, D & E were overruled and such exhibits were received into the record.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent offered into evidence Exhibits 1, a Support Report prepared by Scott Shirley, an employee of Jackson County Missouri. Such exhibit was received into the record without objection.
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, including the application of any abatement. 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.
Complainants’ Burden of Proof
In order to prevail, Complainants must present substantial and persuasive evidence as to the proper taxation of the subject property on January 1, 2015. Hermel, supra. There is no presumption that the taxpayer’s opinion is correct. The taxpayer in a Commission appeal still bears the burden of proof. The taxpayer is the moving party seeking affirmative relief. Therefore, the Complainant bears the burden of proving the vital elements of the case, i.e., the assessment was “unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary or capricious.” See, Westwood Partnership v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003); Daly v. P. D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002); Reeves v. Snider, 115 S.W.3d 375 (Mo. App. S.D. 2003); Industrial Development Authority of Kansas City v. State Tax Commission of Missouri, 804 S.W.2d 387, 392 (Mo. App. 1991).
Weight to be Given Evidence
The relative weight to be accorded any relevant factor in a particular case is for the Hearing Officer to decide. St. Louis County v. Security Bonhomme, Inc., 558 S.W.2d 655, 659 (Mo. banc 1977); St. Louis County v. STC, 515 S.W.2d 446, 450 (Mo. 1974); Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company v. STC, 436 S.W.2d 650 (Mo. 1968). The Hearing Officer is not bound by any specific method.
Owner’s Opinion of Value
Although an owner is competent to testify regarding the appropriate valuation of the owner’s property, “[w]here the basis for a test as to the reliability of the testimony is not supported by a statement of facts on which it is based, or the basis of fact does not appear to be sufficient, the testimony should be rejected.” Carmel Energy at 783. A taxpayer does not meet his burden if evidence on any essential element of his case leaves the Commission “in the nebulous twilight of speculation, conjecture and surmise.” See, Rossman v. G.G.C. Corp. of Missouri, 596 S.W.2d 469, 471 (Mo. App. 1980).
Complainant Not Deemed an Expert
Any reliance upon State ex rel. Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission v. Boer, 2016 WL 320266 (Mo. App. S.D. Jan. 27, 2016) would be misplaced in the present appeal. The Boer decision must be read narrowly, in that such decision was based heavily upon a determination of whether a trial court abused its discretion in allowing a particular person to testify as an expert. The Missouri Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion. Nevertheless, inherent in such decision was the fact that determinations regarding who can testify as an expert are left to the discretion of the lower tribunal, in this appeal, the State Tax Commission.
In the present appeal, the Hearing Officer finds that Complainant does not qualify as an expert witness. The Hearing Officer is not persuaded that Complainant’s life experience, training, education and/or knowledge is superior to the general public to any extent that such would allow Complainant to opine on property values. Secondly, the Missouri Court of Appeals noted that “[g]enerally, expert testimony is admissible as long as the expert’s competence on the subject matter is superior to that of the ordinary juror and the expert’s opinion aids the jury in deciding an issue in the case”.. Id. citing Freight House Lofts Condo Ass’n v. VSI Meter Services, Inc., 402 S.W.3d 586, 596 (Mo.App. W.D. 2013). In the present appeal, no evidence was adduced that Complainant competence on real estate appraisal or the valuation of real estate would be superior to the fact-finder in the present appeal, namely the State Tax Commission, which expertise and competence is addressed in Savage v. State Tax Commission of Missouri, 722 S.W.2d 72 (Mo. banc 1986) below. Any testimony above and beyond what a general property owner could testify to would merely confuse the issues in this appeal. As pointed out in the Boer decision, “[a]ll parties recognize and acknowledge that ‘[w]hile property owners may always testify as to their opinion concerning the value of their own property, they may not support that opinion by reference to comparable sales unless they qualify as an expert.’” Boer, citing State ex rel. Missouri Highway & Transp. Comm’n v. McDonald’s Corp., 872 S.W.2d 108, 113 (Mo. App. E.D. 1994).
The Missouri Supreme Court, in Savage v. State Tax Commission of Missouri, 722 S.W.2d 72 (Mo. banc 1986) observed:
In matters of property tax assessment, this Court has acknowledged “the wisdom of the General Assembly in providing an administrative agency to deal with this specialized field.” State ex rel Cassilly v. Riney, 576 S.W.2d 325, 328 (Mo. banc 1979). Thus we recognize that the courts may not assess property for tax purposes, Drey v. State Tax Commission, 345 S.W.2d 228, 238‑9 (Mo. 1961), that proper methods of valuation and assessment of property are delegated to the Commission, C & D Investment Co. v. Bestor, 624 S.W.2d 835, 838 (Mo. banc 1981) and that on review, “[t]he evidence must be considered in the light most favorable to the administrative body, together with all reasonable inferences which support it, and if the evidence would support either of two opposed findings, the reviewing court is bound by the administrative determination.” Hermel, Inc. v. State Tax Commission, 564 S.W.2d 888, 894 (Mo. banc 1978) (citation omitted). When read together, our cases demonstrate that this Court is loathe to substitute its judgment for the expertise of the Commission in matters of property tax assessment. Absent clear cause, we will “stay our hand[s].” Pierre Chouteau Condominiums v. State Tax Commission, 662 S.W.2d 513, 517 (Mo. banc 1984).
Complainant Fails to Meet Burden of Proof
Complainant failed to present substantial and persuasive evidence to prove that the abatement, applicable to the subject property was not properly calculated. Although Complainant presented many documents and his own testimony, such was not deemed to be substantial and persuasive. The condition of the property, when purchased in December of 2009 does not prove the true market value of the subject property on January 1, 2015. Furthermore, even in the event Complainant had presented sufficient evidence as to the condition of the subject property as of January 1, 2015, he also had the burden of proof to show the true market value on January 1, 2015, given its condition on such date.
Complainant also testified as to the unique nature of the subject property, namely the excess space built into the home. While it may be true that buyers in the open market would not be inclined to pay for the purported overbuilt nature of the home, Complainant did not meet his burden of proof by quantifying the impact of such on the true market value of the home. To rule in favor of Complainant would have required the Hearing Officer to participate in speculation, conjecture and surmise. As stated above, a taxpayer does not meet his burden if evidence on any essential element of his case leaves the Commission “in the nebulous twilight of speculation, conjecture and surmise.” See, Rossman v. G.G.C. Corp. of Missouri, 596 S.W.2d 469, 471 (Mo. App. 1980).
The assessed valuation for the subject property, as determined by the Board of Equalization for Jackson County for the subject tax day, is AFFIRMED.
The assessed value for the subject property for tax years 2015 is set at $150,230 residential ($790,700 TMV).
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
The Collector of Jackson 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 this 11 day of July, 2016.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Senior Hearing Officer
Delivery or Notice was made via mail, email, fax, or personally on July 11, 2016, to the following Individuals of this Order
Garry Turner, Complainant, email@example.com
Whitney S. Miller, Assistant County Counselor, Attorney for Respondent, WMiller2@jacksongov.org
Edwin Stoll, Director of Assessment, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Information for State Tax Commission:
Missouri State Tax Commission
301 W. High Street, Room 840
P.O. Box 146
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146