STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|Appeal No. 21-33000
Parcel/locator No(s): 1216302008
|BRENT JOHNSON, ASSESSOR,
GREENE, COUNTY, MISSOURI,
DECISION AND ORDER
Linda Macke (Complainant) appeals the Greene County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $120,900. Complainant claimed the property is subject to discrimination. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing discrimination. The BOE’s decision is affirmed.1
1 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.
Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent was represented by counsel Aaron Klusmeyer. The evidentiary hearing was conducted in person on December 21, 2021, in Room 309 of the Greene County Courthouse, Springfield, Missouri.2
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Subject Property. The subject property is located at 854 N. Burton Ave, in Springfield, The parcel/locator number is 1216302008.
The subject property consists of a .5357 acre lot and a residential single family home. The home has a two car garage and a fenced in backyard. Complainant purchased the subject property approximately 15 to 20 years ago.
- Respondent and BOE. Respondent classified the subject property as residential and determined the TVM on January 1, 2021, was $133,800. The BOE classified the subject property as residential and independently determined the TVM on January 1, 2021, was $120,900.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant testified the TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $120,900. Complainant testified that the Greene County Assessor’s office valued her property higher than other residences in her neighborhood, but that may be because her home had many improvements in the past few years, including a new dining room and living room. Complainant testified that a fence was placed over the property line by her neighbors.
2 Lorella Crews and Lauren Havard, Interpreters, were present and provided interpretation service for the evidentiary hearing.
- Respondent’s Evidence. On October 28, 2021, Respondent submitted a Motion to Dismiss. Respondent submitted no additional evidence.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $120,900.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
1. 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).
In order to obtain a reduction in assessed value based upon discrimination, the Complainants must (1) prove the true value in money of their property on January 1, 2021; and (2) show an intentional plan of discrimination by the assessing officials resulting in an assessment of that property at a greater percentage of value than other property, generally, within the same class within the same taxing jurisdiction. Koplar v. State Tax Commission, 321 S.W.2d 686, 690, 695 (Mo. 1959). Evidence of value and assessments of a few properties does not prove discrimination. Substantial evidence must show that all other property in the same class, generally, is actually undervalued. State ex rel. Plantz v. State Tax Commission, 384 S.W.2d 565, 568 (Mo. 1964). The difference in the assessment ratio of the subject property and the average assessment ratio in the subject county must be shown to be grossly excessive. Savage v. State Tax Commission of Missouri, 722 S.W.2d 72, 79 (Mo. banc 1986). No other methodology is sufficient to establish discrimination. Cupples-Hesse, supra.
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.
3. 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
- 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).
To obtain a reduction in the assessment of real property based upon discrimination, the complaining taxpayer must (1) prove the true value in money of the subject property as of the taxing date; and (2) show an intentional plan of discrimination by the assessor, which resulted in an assessment at a greater percentage of value than other property within the same class and the same taxing district, or, in the absence of such an intentional plan, show that the level of assessment is “so grossly excessive as to be inconsistent with an honest exercise of judgment.” Zimmerman v. Mid–America Financial Corp., 481 S.W.3d 564, 571 (Mo. App. E.D. 2015), quoting Savage v. State Tax Comm’n of Missouri, 722 S.W.2d 72, 78 (Mo. banc 1986). Evidence of value and assessments of a few properties does not prove discrimination. Substantial evidence must show that all other property in the same class, generally, is actually undervalued. State ex rel. Plantz v. State Tax Commission, 384 S.W.2d 565, 568 (Mo. 1964).
4. Respondent’s Motion to Dismiss is denied.
The STC has statutory authority to hear the appeal based on the timely filing of a Complaint for Review by the Complainant. Respondent’s Motion to Dismiss argues that based on the subject of the Complainant’s argument, the STC is without subject matter jurisdiction. This argument is without merit as the statute provides “every owner of real assessment to such property.” Section 138.430.1. Therefore, the authority of the STC over the appeal is based on the timely filed Complaint for Review of the BOE’s decision on the 2021 valuation of the subject property. The merits of Complainant’s discrimination claim is an issue for the trier of fact and should be determined after the full evidentiary hearing. Any and all evidence presented regarding the Complainant’s property line dispute will not be considered in this forum because the STC is not authorized to resolve property line disputes, which are a matter for the circuit courts. Therefore, the Motion to Dismiss is denied.
5. Complainant Did Not Prove Discrimination.
Complainant did not prove discrimination for the subject property. Missouri courts have consistently held that (1) a taxpayer alleging discrimination must show the true value in money of his property as a necessary part of his discrimination claim; and (2) the proper method of determining discrimination is to compare the actual level of assessment of the subject property as determined by the assessor to the common level of assessment for the subject property’s subclass. Mid-America Financial Corp., 481 S.W.3d at 574, citing Savage, 722 S.W.2d at 72.
Regarding the first point, Complainant did not establish any TVM independent of the BOE’s valuation. Complainant testified that she was in agreement with the BOE’s valuation of $120,900. The BOE’s decision had reduced the 2021 value set by the Respondent from $133,800 to $120,900. Complainant did not present any appraisal or comparable sales evidence establishing the TVM was lower than $120,900. Therefore, Complainant failed to present evidence of a lower TVM, which does not prove the first point of a necessary discrimination claim since she was in agreement with the TVM established by the BOE.
Regarding the second point, Complainant presented no evidence of additional properties for comparison with the subject property in order to establish a plan of discrimination by Greene County. There was no evidence presented that a statistically significant number of other residential properties within Greene County are being assessed at a lower ratio of market value than the subject property. Complainant presented no evidence of properties which sold for prices in excess of their appraised value and testified that the subject property most likely appraised higher due to its improvements, but presented no appraisal or comparable sales in support of her testimony. Because the Complainant failed to establish the market value of the subject property and failed to establish that it is being assessed at a higher percentage of market value than a statistically significant number of other properties in Greene County, the claim of discrimination fails.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $120,900, with an assessed value of $22,980.
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 Greene 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 January, 14, 2022.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Erica M. Gage
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 January 14, 2022, to: Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.