STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|GORDON F. WEBB,||)|
|)||Appeal No. 17-10632|
|Complainant,||)||Parcel/Loc. No. 18L520481|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,
DECISION AND ORDER
The St. Louis County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) determination of the subject property’s true value in money (TVM) is AFFIRMED. Complainant Gordon F. Webb (Complainant) did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the BOE.
The evidentiary hearing in this case was scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m., May 7, 2018, at the St. Louis County Government Administration Building in Clayton, Missouri. Complainant failed to appear at the evidentiary hearing and failed to prosecute the appeals. Respondent Jake Zimmerman, Assessor, St. Louis County, Missouri, (Respondent) Respondent appeared by Counsel Steve Robson, who announced ready for trial. Case decided by Senior Hearing Officer Amy S. Westermann (Hearing Officer).
Complainant appealed on the ground of overvaluation. Respondent initially set the TVM of the subject property at $473,200, as of January 1, 2017. The BOE found the TVM of the subject property to be $473,200, as of January 1, 2017, thereby affirming the valuation set by Respondent. On the Complaint for Review that Complainant filed with the STC, Complainant proposed a TVM for the subject properties of $360,500, as of January 1, 2017.
The State Tax Commission (STC) takes this appeal to determine the TVM for the subject property as of January 1, 2017.
The Hearing Officer enters the following Decision and Order.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Jurisdiction over this appeal is proper. Complainant timely appealed to the STC.
- The subject property is identified as 6 Graybridge Lane, St. Louis, Missouri. It is further identified by Parcel/Locator No. 18L520481.
- By Order dated December 8, 2017, (December 2017 Order) this appeal was set for a Prehearing Conference on February 15, 2018, at the St. Louis County Government Administration Building, 41 South Central Avenue, in Clayton, Missouri. The December 2017 Order also provided Complainant with information about what to expect at an Evidentiary Hearing. The December 2017 Order warned Complainant that if he did not appear at the Evidentiary Hearing and no timely request for continuance were made, the appeal would be dismissed for failure to prosecute.
- On February 13, 2018, Complainant informed the STC Legal Coordinator that Complainant was in Florida and was unable to appear at the Prehearing Conference in person. The STC Legal Coordinator replied to Complainant by email that he would need to contact the Hearing Officer and Counsel for Respondent to discuss a possible alternate manner for appearing in person. The STC Legal Coordinator provided a courtesy copy of the email to the Hearing Officer and Counsel for Respondent.
- On February 13, 2018, Counsel for Respondent notified the Hearing Officer that Complainant had called to request appearing for the Prehearing Conference by telephone because Complainant would be in Florida on the date of the Prehearing Conference. Counsel for Respondent provided a courtesy copy of the email to Complainant. The Hearing Officer replied to Counsel for Respondent and to Complainant that appearing by telephone would be satisfactory. Counsel for Respondent provided Complainant with the telephone number to call on the date/time scheduled for his Prehearing Conference.
- On February 15, 2018, Complainant’s Prehearing Conference was conducted by telephone. During the Prehearing Conference, the Hearing Officer informed Complainant that the appeal would be scheduled for an Evidentiary Hearing at 11:30 a.m. on May 11, 2018. The Hearing Officer issued a written order informing the parties of the date/time of the Evidentiary Hearing. The order further stated:
If a continuance of this date for evidentiary hearing is necessary, the parties shall file their request for continuance in writing no later than five days prior to the evidentiary hearing, not including Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays.
Immediately following the Prehearing Conference, a copy of the order was mailed to Complainant at the contact address he had provided on the Complaint for Review filed with the STC. A copy of the order was provided to Respondent during the Prehearing Conference.
- Complainant did not file any request for a continuance of the Evidentiary Hearing and did not otherwise communicate with the Hearing Officer.
- On May 11, 2018, the Evidentiary Hearing was commenced as scheduled. Complainant did not appear. Respondent appeared by counsel, who announced ready for trial. Counsel for Respondent had a witness present and prepared to testify on behalf of Respondent. Counsel for Respondent also had an exhibit to introduce into evidence. Following a grace period for Complainant to appear, the matter was placed on the record for the entry of decision noting Complainant’s failure to appear and to prosecute the appeal and affirming the decision of the BOE in Appeal No. 17-10632.
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 BOE 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.
Presumptions 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). In order to prevail, a complainant must rebut the presumption of correct assessment by presenting substantial and persuasive evidence as to the proper taxation of the subject property on the tax day at issue. Hermel, 564 S.W.2d at 895; Cupples-Hesse Corporation v. State Tax Commission, 329 S.W.2d 696, 702 (Mo. 1959). There is no presumption that the taxpayer’s opinion is correct. In an appeal before the Commission, the taxpayer still bears the burden of proof because the taxpayer is the moving party seeking affirmative relief. Therefore, a complainant must prove by a preponderance of substantial and persuasive the evidence 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, 161 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003); Reeves v. Snider, 115 S.W.3d 375, 379 (Mo. App. S.D. 2003); Daly v. P. D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645, 648 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002); Industrial Development Authority of Kansas City v. State Tax Commission of Missouri, 804 S.W.2d 387, 392 (Mo. App. W.D. 1991).
Complainant failed to appear and to prosecute the appeal and failed to carry his burden of presenting substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption that the BOE’s determination of the TVM of the subject property was correct. Complainant failed to communicate with the STC and failed to file any written request for a continuance at least five business days prior to the date of the Evidentiary Hearing, in violation of an order of the STC. 12 CSR 30-3.050(6). For these reasons, the BOE’s determination that the TVM of the subject property was $473,200 ($89,908 assessed value) as of January 1, 2017, is AFFIRMED.
Application for Review
Complainant 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. The application shall contain specific 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 appeal is based may result in summary denial. Section 138.432 RSMo 2000.
The Collector of St. Louis County, as well as the collectors of all affected political subdivisions therein, shall continue to hold the disputed taxes pending a 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 2000, as amended.
Any Finding of Fact that is a Conclusion of Law or Decision shall be so deemed. Any Decision that is a Finding of Fact or Conclusion of Law shall be so deemed.
SO ORDERED June 14, 2018.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Amy S. Westermann
Senior Hearing Officer
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been sent electronically or mailed postage prepaid this 14th day of June, 2018, to: Complainants(s) counsel and/or Complainants, the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.