STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 19-10811|
|)||Parcel No. 23N410384|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Jonathan Elson (Complainant) appeals the St. Louis County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $399,100, with an assessed value of $75,830. Complainant claims the property is overvalued and proposes a value of $320,000. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing overvaluation. The BOE’s decision is affirmed.
The evidentiary hearing was conducted on March 17, 2021, via WebEx. Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent was represented by counsel Monique Nketah.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Subject Property. The subject property is located at 543 Lindeman Rd. in St. Louis, Missouri. The parcel/locator number is 23N410384.
The subject property consists of a one acre lot and a 2,104 square foot single-family home that has four bedrooms, three full baths, and one half bath. (Ex. 1 at 1.)
- Respondent and BOE. Respondent classified the subject property as residential and determined the TVM on January 1, 2019, was $417,200. The BOE classified the subject property as residential and independently determined the TVM on January 1, 2019, was $399,100.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant asserts the TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $320,000. Complainant testified in support of his opinion of value and submitted the following exhibits:
|A||Photograph of basement wall cracks.||Admitted|
|B||Photograph of cracked driveway.||Admitted|
|C||Photograph of damaged interior door.||Admitted|
|D||Photograph of portion of front porch with crack.||Admitted|
|E||Photograph of retaining wall on backside of house that is starting to pull away from the main foundation.||Admitted|
|F||Photograph of discolored and damaged ceiling in the kitchen.||Admitted|
|G||List of subject property and proposed comparable properties with assessment information and notes.||Admitted|
Respondent did not object to any of the exhibits, and Exhibits A through G were received into evidence. Complainant asserts that the TVM of the subject property should be lowered based on the properties listed in Exhibit G and the condition issues illustrated in Exhibits A through F.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent presented the testimony of Barry Hough, an appraisal supervisor for Respondent, and submitted Exhibit 1, the property record card as it existed in 2019 for the subject property. Complainant did not object to the exhibit, and Exhibit 1 was received into evidence.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $399,100, with an assessed value of $75,830.
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. Section 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 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). Determining the TVM is a factual issue for the STC. Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 348 (Mo. App. E.D. 2008). The “proper methods of valuation and assessment of property are delegated to the Commission.” Savage v. State Tax Comm’n, 722 S.W.2d 72, 75 (Mo. banc 1986).
“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; 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. “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). The finder of fact in an administrative hearing determines the credibility and weight of expert testimony. Hornbeck v. Spectra Painting, Inc., 370 S.W.3d 624, 632 (Mo. banc 2012). “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). 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.
- 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 or misclassified. Westwood P’ship v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152, 161 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003). The BOE’s valuation is presumptively correct. Tibbs v. Poplar Bluff Assocs. I, L.P., 599 S.W.3d 1, 7 (Mo. App. S.D. 2020). The “taxpayer may rebut this presumption by presenting substantial and persuasive evidence that the valuation is erroneous” and 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, 722 S.W.2d at 77 (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 Prove Overvaluation. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing that the BOE’s valuation was erroneous and that his opinion of value, $320,000, was the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019. Although Exhibits A, B, C, D, and F and Complainant’s related testimony establish that the subject property had various condition issues as of January 1, 2019, the evidence does not persuasively show that the BOE failed to take these condition issues into account when valuing the subject property. Instead, Mr. Hough persuasively testified that Respondent had adjusted the property record card based on condition issues. (Tr. Pt. 2 16:31-46.) Additionally, Exhibit G and related testimony do not rebut the presumption that the BOE value is correct. Complainant’s proposed comparable properties listed in Exhibit G include addresses, lot size, assessment information, and notes. However, Exhibit G is not a comparable sales approach to valuing property. The comparable sales approach uses sales rather than assessments and makes market-based adjustments to account for differences between the comparable sales and the subject property. Exhibit G does not include sales information or market-based adjustments to Complainant’s proposed comparable properties to account for any differences between them and the subject property, such as room count, bedroom count, bathroom count, or other characteristics. Further, Mr. Hough persuasively testified about the shortcoming of this comparative assessment analysis when he indicated that there was “no way to know from this [Exhibit G] exactly what these differences are and what they tell” about the subject property. (Tr. Pt. 2 16:47-18-34).
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019, was $399,100, with an assessed value of $75,830.
Application for Review
A party may file with the Commission 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, 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, 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 November 19, 2021.
Laura A. Storck-Elam
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 November 19, 2021, 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, Section 14; section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000. All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.
 Given Complainant’s testimony that he does not believe the retaining wall was an issue as of January 1, 2019, (Tr. Pt. 2 5:16-46), the photograph of the retaining wall issue, Exhibit E, is not relevant to the determination of value as of January 1, 2019.
 In Exhibit G, Complainant’s notes describe three of the five proposed comparable properties as smaller than the subject property.
 Missouri operates on a two-year reassessment cycle for valuing real property. See Section 137.115.1. Absent new construction or improvements to a parcel of real property, the assessed value as of January 1 of the odd year remains the assessed value as of January 1 of the following even year. Id.