STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|JUSTIN CLARK,||)||Appeal No. 21-10011|
|)||Parcel/locator No: 27N230313|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Justin Clark (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, 2021, was $648,500. Complainant claims the property is overvalued and proposes a value of $612,100. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing overvaluation. The BOE’s decision is affirmed.
The evidentiary hearing was conducted on May 25, 2022, via WebEx. Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent was represented by counsel, Tim Bowe.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Subject Property. The subject property is located 9500 Fringe Ct., in St. Louis, Missouri. The parcel/locator number is 27N230313.
The subject property is located in the Tapawingo on the Green subdivision and consists of a .53 acre lot and a residential single family home built in 2010. The home is a one and half story home and has 4,004 square feet of living space, including four bedrooms and three and half bathrooms. Complainant purchased the land in 2008 for $105,000. Complainant has not made any improvements to the property in the last three years.
- Respondent and BOE. Respondent classified the subject property as residential and determined the TVM on January 1, 2021, was $658,500. The BOE classified the subject property as residential and independently determined the TVM on January 1, 2021, was $648,500.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant submitted Exhibits A through H which are described as follows:
|A||Summary of Complainant’s basis for the appeal, correspondence concerning the subject property, and photographs of the subject property||Admitted|
|B||Change of Assessment Notice for the subject property for 2021||Admitted|
|C||Complainant’s BOE Appeal Information||Admitted|
|D||St. Louis County Real Estate Information for the subject property (Ownership, Legal and Assessments)||Admitted|
|E||St. Louis County Real Estate Information for the subject property (Property and Sales)||Admitted|
|F||Aerial view of the subject property||Admitted|
|G||Photograph of retaining wall in back yard of subject property||Admitted|
|H||Photograph of garage door and part of driveway of subject property||Admitted|
Complainant testified that his opinion of value for the subject property as of January 1, 2021 is $612,100. Complainant testified that Exhibit A lays out the basis of his appeal to the STC. Complainant’s main point of contention is that he believes the land value assigned by Respondent for the subject property is overvalued. Using his exhibits for support, Complainant testified that 38% of the land is unusable because of a limestone retaining wall in the back yard which reaches 15 feet high. The wall has an uphill wooded area behind it. Complainant stated that these features make a large part of the land inaccessible and thus unusable. Complainant asserted that Respondent improperly compared the subject property with others in the area that have fully accessible land which is usable, nearly flat, and overlook a golf course. Despite these differences, Complainant argued that the land values for these properties is only slightly higher than that of the subject. For the most part, Complainant accepts Respondent’s value as to the improvements on the property.
To reach his proposed total value of $612,100, Complainant took Respondent’s land value for the subject ($108,900) and multiplied by 62% (signifying the usable portion of the land). Then Complainant added Respondent’s value for the improvements ($544,600), but subtracted $5,000 due to the fact that the subject only has a two-car garage as opposed to a three-car garage. Complainant essentially made all of these arguments to the BOE at that hearing. Complainant is not a licensed appraiser in the state of Missouri.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent submitted Exhibit 1, the BOE Decision letter dated October 29, 2021, stating the BOE appraised value of $648,500 as of January 1, 2021 for the subject property. Exhibit 1 was admitted without objection.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $648,500.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
- Assessment and Valuation
Pursuant to Article X, Sections 4(a) and 4(b), Mo. Const. of 1945 real property and tangible personal property is assessed at its value or such percentage of its value as may be fixed by law for each class and for each subclass. Article X, Sections 4(a) and 4(b), Mo. Const. of 1945. 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. 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.
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. The Hearing Officer’s decision regarding the assessment or valuation of the property may be based solely upon his inquiry and any evidence presented by the parties, or based solely upon evidence presented by the parties. Id.
- Complainant’s Burden of Proof
The BOE’s valuation is presumptively correct. Rinehart v. Laclede Gas Co., 607 S.W.3d 220, 227 (Mo. App. W.D. 2020). To prove overvaluation, a taxpayer must rebut the BOE’s presumptively correct valuation and prove the “value that should have been placed on the property.” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 346. The taxpayer’s evidence must be both “substantial and persuasive.” 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”). A taxpayer does not meet his burden if evidence on any essential element of his case leaves the STC “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 Did Not Prove Overvaluation.
Complainant did not establish that the BOE valuation was erroneous, nor that TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $612,100. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence rebutting the presumptively correct BOE 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. Complainant testified that the land value for the subject property is overvalued due to the lack of accessibility to 38% of the property based on his measurements. However, Complainant offered no evidence substantiating the alleged diminished value caused by the retaining wall and inaccessible portion of the property. Complainant claims that the land value as of January 1, 2021, was $67,500. However, Complainant purchased the land in 2008 for $105,000. Complainant does not provide evidence substantiating how the land has been devalued almost $40,000 in over a decade.
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
The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $648,500, with an assessed value of $123,215.
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 4, 2022.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
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 November 4, 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, Section 14; section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000. All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.
 Exhibit A, p. 1.