STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|GEORGE AND DIANE WHITE||)|
|REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST,||)|
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 21-18455|
|)||Parcel No. 20K111764|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
The George and Diane White Revocable Living Trust (Complainant) appealed the St. Louis County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding the true value in money (TVM) of the subject residential property was $630,000 as of January, 1, 2021. Complainant alleges overvaluation and discrimination and proposes a value of $595,400. The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $630,000.
The evidentiary hearing was held on April 28, 2022, via Webex. Complainant appeared by counsel George White. Respondent Jake Zimmerman, Assessor, St. Louis County, Missouri, was represented by counsel, Tim Bowe. The case was heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer Benjamin Slawson.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- The Subject Property. The subject residential property consists of a single-family home located at 69 Whitehall Ct. in Brentwood, Missouri. It has three bedrooms, 3,050 square feet, and the lot is approximately 0.8 acres. The home was built in 1949 and is mostly a brick home. There was an addition added to the house in 1999 that has a vinyl exterior. When the addition was done, two of the bathrooms were renovated. Mr. White and his wife purchased the subject property in 1982 and then transferred it to Complainant in 2018. Complainant has not had the property appraised in the last three years, has not made any significant improvements in the last three years, nor has listed it for sale in the last three years.
- Assessment and Valuation. The BOE determined the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $630,000. The BOE decision indicates this value represents a reduction from the “previous market” value of $658,700.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant introduced Exhibits A through I, all of which were admitted without objection. Complainant’s exhibits are summarized as follows:
|Exhibit A||Outline of Complainant’s argument for overvaluation|
|Exhibit B||Table of Respondent’s valuations of properties in the Whitehall Court Subdivision from 2019 and 2021 showing percentage increases|
|Exhibit C||Extract of information on the subject property and 49 Whitehall Court taken from Respondent’s online records|
|Exhibit D||Complainant’s argument for overvaluation based on Respondent’s comparable sales|
|Exhibit E||Zoning District map of City of Brentwood and Summary of Zoning Regulation|
|Exhibit F||Complainant’s calculations for table in Exhibit B|
|Exhibit G||Pictures of rear of subject property and rear looking west|
|Exhibit H||Pictures of front porch of subject property south facing looking east|
|Exhibit I||Pictures of rear porch of subject property looking east and front of property looking north at same area|
Mr. George White testified on behalf of Complainant. Complainant believes the subject property is overvalued for several reasons, and that its TVM as of January 1, 2021, was $595,400. Complainant estimated this value by using the current appraised value for the land and reducing the value of the improvements using appraised values of neighboring properties in same subdivision. Complainant’s fair estimate is displayed on page 2 of Exhibit A.
Complainant asserted that 49 Whitehall Ct. is a similar property that Complainant repeatedly has used for comparison for several years. General characteristics of that property compared with the subject are described on Exhibit C. Complainant argued that usually Respondent’s assessed values of 49 Whitehall Court and the subject property are similar. However, Complainant noted that recently the subject property is assessed at a higher value despite it being a less desirable property.
Complainant has also tracked valuations of properties in Complainant’s subdivision, with the most recent assessment cycle portrayed in Exhibit B. Complainant argued that the subject property has been overvalued relative to all properties in Whitehall Court. Exhibit B shows the increases in Respondent’s assessment of the subject and neighboring properties from 2019 to 2021, and includes the percentage increase for each property. Complainant’s calculations for the data on Exhibit B are shown in Exhibit F. Complainant offered Exhibits G, H, and I to show the negative environmental effects of poor drainage from a neighboring subdivision to the north of the subject property. Complainant claimed that these drainage issues make the subject property less desirable. The pictures of Complainant’s property in Exhibits G, H, and I show water pooling in both the front and back yards. Last, Complainant also asserted that Respondent has overvalued the subject property as well by using comparables from the York Woods subdivision which Complainant argues is a far more desirable subdivision.
Complainant presented all of these arguments and supporting information to the BOE. Complainant testified that he is not a licensed appraiser in the State of Missouri.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent’s evidence consisted solely of Exhibit 1, a copy of the October 29, 2021, BOE decision letter determining the subject appraised value as of January 1, 2021, was $630,000.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $630,000.
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). “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).
“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. The three generally accepted approaches are the cost approach, the income approach, and the comparable sales approach. Id. at 346-48. The STC has wide discretion in selecting the appropriate valuation method but “cannot base its decision on opinion evidence that fails to consider information that should have been considered under a particular valuation approach.” Id., at 348.
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.
- 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 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”).
- Complainant Did Not Produce Substantial and Persuasive Evidence of Overvaluation.
Single-family homes are typically valued with the sales comparison approach because of the ready availability of sales data. Complainant offered no evidence of comparable sales. Complainant did not perform a sales comparison analysis, a comparative market analysis, or any other evidence of market-based transactions of similar homes.
Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence of overvaluation. Complainant testified that he estimated the TVM of the subject to be $595,400. However, Complainant did not prove this proposed value by using comparable sales or submitting an appraisal of the property. Complainant compares Respondent’s appraised values of homes in Complainant’s subdivision with the subject property, noting the differences in the rate increases for assessment. However, it is not a generally accepted approach to value property and is not substantial and persuasive evidence of overvaluation.
Complainant argues that the subject property should not be compared to homes in the York Woods subdivision. However, Complainant neither demonstrated that Respondent failed to take this into account when making market-based adjustments in determining value, nor that the BOE’s valuation fails to take into account the subject property’s location and surroundings. Regarding the water drainage issue caused by the neighboring subdivision’s development, Complainant did not provide proof quantifying the specific monetary impact that this environmental condition has had, if any, on the TVM of the subject property. Given that the BOE reduced the appraised value of the subject from Respondent’s assigned value, Complainant again has not proven that the BOE failed to consider this issue when reducing the TVM.
Even if Complainant had rebutted the presumption of correct valuation by the BOE, Complainant has not proven that the TVM of the subject property is $595,400 as of January 1, 2021. While a property owner’s opinion of value is generally admissible, the opinion lacks “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 did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence showing that the subject property was overvalued. Therefore, Complainant’s evidence does not provide the necessary foundation and elements to support his overvaluation claim. Because the STC “cannot base its decision on opinion evidence that fails to consider information that should have been considered” under a recognized approach to value, Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 348, the BOE decision is affirmed.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE’s decision finding the subject property’s appraised value was $630,000 as of on January 1, 2021, is affirmed. The TVM as of January 1, 2021, was $630,000.
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 September 9, 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 September 9, 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.
 Complainant included the discrimination claim in the original complaint for review but withdrew the claim prior to the Evidentiary Hearing and, thus, proceeded only on the claim of overvaluation.