STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 21-10151|
|)||Parcel No. 31K320591|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Kirk Nickels (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 $230,000. Complainant alleges overvaluation and asserts the TVM was $206,000. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence of overvaluation. The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $230,000.
The evidentiary hearing was held on April 14, 2022, via Webex. Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent Jake Zimmerman, Assessor, St. Louis County, Missouri, was represented by counsel, Tim Bowe.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- The Subject Property. The subject residential real property is located at 3716 Summerlyn Ct., Saint Louis, Missouri. The subject property consists of a single family home. Complainant did not provide further specific details concerning the characteristics of the subject property.
- Assessment and Valuation. The BOE determined the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $230,000. The BOE decision indicates this value represents a reduction from the “previous market” value of $240,500.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant introduced Exhibits A and B. Respondent did not object to either exhibit, and both exhibits were admitted into evidence.
Exhibit A consists of 12 photographs of the interior and exterior of the subject property. The pictures highlight some of the condition issues Complainant believes affect the TVM of the home, including cracks, discoloration, and bubbling in the walls and floor tiles, roof leaks, water damage and mold damage in the basement, and poor condition of the windows. Complainant testified that he has not obtained estimates to repair these condition issues because he stated has does not currently have the money to complete such repairs, and thus does not want to waste the time of any potential contractors.
Exhibit B is a partially executed stipulation agreement between Complainant and Respondent for the tax years of 2019-2020 concerning the appraised value of the subject property. Complainant testified that the stipulation was executed between the parties in December of 2020.
Complainant’s primary contention is that the stipulation signed in December of 2020 should apply for the assessed value of the property as of January 1, 2021. Complainant testified that Respondent was aware of all the condition issues in December of 2020 and that “nothing had changed” in that short amount of time between the signing of the stipulation and the 2021 assessment date. Complainant asserted that he believes that it is unfair for Respondent to agree to a valuation of $206,000, and then a month later increase the assessed value.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent introduced Exhibit 1, the BOE’s October 29, 2021 Decision Letter. Complainant did not object. Exhibit 1 was admitted into evidence.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $230,000.
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. Section 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.
- Evidence. “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). 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).
- 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. 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.
The comparable sales approach is typically used to value residential properties improved with a single-family home. “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.” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 347-48 (internal quotation omitted). Complainant offered no evidence of comparable sales or any evidence proving his opinion value of $206,000.
Concerning the condition issues with the subject property evidenced in Exhibit A, Complainant provided no evidence providing a way to quantify the effect of these issues on value or showing the BOE value does not account for these issues. The fact that the BOE lowered Respondent’s assessed value of $240,500 to $230,000 suggests that the BOE did take condition issues into account.
Last, Complainant’s contention that a previous stipulation of value between the parties (Complainant’s Exhibit B) should control is not well founded. 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). Emphasis added. 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 value as of January 1 of the odd numbered year remains the value for the following even numbered year unless there is new construction or improvement to the property. Section 137.115.1. Complainant’s Exhibit B, though not fully executed, appears to be a stipulation between Complainant and Respondent for the subject property’s value as of January 1, 2019 (which would apply to 2020 as well). Therefore, it is not applicable to the current appeal which concerns the subject property’s value 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 a further reduction in value was justified due to lead contamination. 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 TVM of subject property on January 1, 2021, was $230,000 is affirmed.
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 July 15, 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 July 15, 2022, to: Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
Amy S. Westermann
 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.