STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|JOHN N. BENNETT,||)|
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 21-16906|
|)||Parcel No. 21N210573|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
John N. Bennett (Complainant) appeals the St. Louis County Board of Equalization’s (Respondent) decision valuing the subject residential property at $353,700 as of January 1, 2021. Complainant alleges overvaluation and asserts the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property as $312,800 as of January 1, 2021. The BOE decision is affirmed.
The evidentiary hearing was held on May 19, 2022, via Webex. Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent was represented by counsel, Tim Bowe. The appeal was heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer Benjamin C. Slawson.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- The Subject Property. The subject residential property consists of a lot improved with a single family home located at 11737 Claychester Dr., Des Peres, Missouri. Complainant testified that the house was built in 1956 and that the square footage of the living space of the home is a little under 2,000 square feet. The house is a single-story home built on a concrete slab with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The house is part of the original Harwood Hills subdivision. Complainant purchased the property in 2015 for $272,000. Complainant has not had the property appraised in the last three years, nor has he listed it for sale in the last three years. Complainant has not made any significant improvements to the property in the last three years.
- Assessment and Valuation. Respondent determined that the subject property’s value as of January 1, 2021, was $353,700. The BOE independently determined the subject property’s appraised value as of January 1, 2021, was $353,700.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant introduced the following exhibits which were admitted without objection:
|A.1||Complainant’s Request for Permit Information from St. Louis County for the subject property|
|A.2||E-mail from St. Louis County regarding permit information requests|
|B||E-mail from City of Des Peres regarding building permit information for the subject property|
|C||Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI) Calculator printout|
Complainant testified that he believes the subject property’s value as of January 1, 2021, was $312,800. Complainant testified that his property, as well others in the Harwood Hills subdivision, were constructed with a modular layout that is outdated and difficult to cure. As a result, Complainant said that the walls are not holding up the roof which makes the structure of the home problematic. Complainant also mentioned that there is insect damage in the back wall, the windows need to be replaced, and the driveway needs to be repaired. Complainant did not testify that he obtained any estimates to repair any of these structural defects.
Complainant believes the valuation increase by Respondent is unreasonable due to two reasons. First, Complainant bases this contention on the fact that he has not made any improvements or renovations to the property. Exhibits A.1, A.2, and Exhibit B verify this by showing communications with St. Louis County and the City of Des Peres that no building permits had been issued to Complainant. Second, Complainant introduced Exhibit C to show that the FHFA HPI estimate for his property based on pricing trends in St. Louis County. Complainant asserts that Respondent’s increase is not in line with this general pricing trend for the St. Louis market estimated by the federal government.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent introduced Exhibit 1, consisting of the October 29, 2021, BOE decision letter for the subject property. Exhibit 1 shows the BOE valued the subject property at. Exhibit 1 was admitted without objection.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $353,700.
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). The TVM “is a function of [the property’s] highest and best use[.]” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 346. “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).
The TVM of a property is typically determined by the sales comparison approach, the income approach, or the cost approach. Snider v. Casino Aztar/Aztar Missouri Gaming Corp., 156 S.W.3d at 346-48.
- 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”).
Property owners are competent to testify to the reasonable fair market value of their property. Cohen, 251 S.W.3d at 348. However, if owner’s testimony is based on “improper elements or an improper foundation[,]” it is not substantial and persuasive evidence rebutting the presumptively correct BOE value. Id. at 349.
- Complainant Did Not Produce Substantial and Persuasive Evidence of Overvaluation.
Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence rebutting the presumptively correct BOE value. While Complainant asserted that the FHFA HPI estimate is not in line with Respondent’s assessment, the FHFA HPI estimate is not an approach to value that is used in Missouri to determine the TVM of a subject property. Complainant did not produce evidence supporting a comparable sales approach, income approach, or cost approach to value. Similarly, the fact that Complainant has not made improvements to the property does not mean the BOE value is incorrect, nor does it shift the burden of proof to Respondent as to value.
Neither Complainant’s exhibits nor his testimony utilized the comparable sales approach, income approach, or cost approach to support his proposed value. No comparable sales were cited or analyzed by Complainant, nor did he offer an appraisal of the property as evidence of the TVM of the property as of January 1, 2021. The lack of evidence relating to a recognized valuation method renders Complainant’s proposed value speculative and unpersuasive. See Cohen, 251 S.W.3d at 349 (holding an opinion of value loses probative value when based on an improper foundation). Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence showing the BOE overvalued the subject property and “the value that should have been placed on the property.” Tibbs, 599 S.W.3d at 7.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence of overvaluation. The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $353,700.
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 October 7, 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 October 7, 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.