STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|MARANATHA CHAPEL NKA, REDEMPTION ASSEMBLY OF GOD,||)|
|)||Appeal No. 21-32505|
|)||Parcel No. 640950A000|
|SCOTT SHIPMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. CHARLES COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Maranatha Chapel, nka Redemption Assembly of God, (Complainant) filed a BOE appeal in 2021 challenging Respondent’s 2020 assessment of the subject property. Respondent filed a motion to dismiss, asserting Complainant’s 2021 BOE appeal was untimely and the State Tax Commission (STC) therefore lacked authority to hear and decide the appeal. Complainant filed suggestions in opposition. Respondent’s motion to dismiss is sustained. Complainant’s appeal is dismissed.
A hearing on Respondent’s motion to dismiss was held via WebEx on November 18, 2021. The hearing was recorded. Complainant is represented by attorney Matthew Paule. Respondent is represented by attorneys Amanda Jennings and Michael Mueth.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- The subject property is commercial property located in St. Charles County, Missouri, at 111 West Allen Street in Wentzville, Missouri.
- Complainant owned the subject property on January 1, 2020, and sold it in February 2020.
- Prior to February 2020, Respondent exempted the subject property from taxation. (Sugg. in Opp. Ex. A) Following Complainant’s sale of the subject property, Complainant received a 2020 notice of assessment and a tax bill. (Sugg. in Opp. at 2)
- Complainant concedes it received the tax bill prior to the due date and asserts it “reasonably believed that said tax bill was sent in error.” (Sugg. in Opp. at 2) Complainant and was on notice the exemption was revoked and that taxes were assessed and due in 2020.
- Complainant did not appeal to the BOE in 2020. Complainant first appealed Respondent’s 2020 assessment to the BOE on March 25, 2021.
- The BOE considered Complainant’s appeal at the BOE’s July 6, 2021, meeting.
- On August 18, 2021, the St. Charles County registrar certified the BOE decision. (Sugg. in Opp. Ex. B) The certified BOE decision stated “the determination of the board, with respect to the [subject property] is as follows: Appeal denied.” (Sugg. in Opp. Ex. B) The certified BOE decision informed Complainant that an appeal of “this B.O.E. decision” must be filed with the STC within 30 days or by September 30, whichever is later. (Id.)
- On September 13, 2021, Complainant filed the above-captioned appeal with the STC.
- On September 29, 2021, Respondent filed a motion to dismiss Complainant’s appeal. Respondent asserts the STC lacks statutory authority to hear and decide the appeal because Complainant’s March 25, 2021, BOE appeal was filed eight months after the July 12, 2020, appeal deadline set by Section 137.275, RSMo 2000, and Section 137.385. (Motion at 2) Respondent concludes Complainant’s untimely BOE appeal demonstrates “Complainant failed to exhaust its administrative remedies” thus depriving the STC of authority to hear and decide Complainant’s appeal. (Motion at 2-3)
- Complainant filed suggestions in opposition, which included Exhibits A and B. Exhibit A is an affidavit from Complainant’s pastor asserting the subject property is still used for exempt purposes. Exhibit B is a copy of the certified BOE decision.
- Complainant asserts its STC appeal filed on September 13, 2021, was filed timely within thirty days of BOE’s final action and prior to September 30, 2021. (Sugg. in Opp. at 3) Complainant further asserted its March 25, 2021, BOE appeal of the 2020 assessment was timely because it was filed prior to “the second Monday in July” as required by Section 137.275. (Id. at 4) Complainant also asserts the BOE decision was appealable pursuant to Section 138.430.1
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
- Authority. As an administrative agency, the STC’s authority is limited to that granted expressly or necessarily implied by statute. See United Pharmacal Co. of Mo., Inc. v. Mo. Bd. of Pharmacy, 208 S.W.3d 907, 913 (Mo. banc 2006). The authority to dismiss an untimely appeal is necessarily implied from the statutory grant of authority to hear and decide appeals filed within definite deadlines. See Oberreiter v. Fullbright Trucking, 24 S.W.3d 727, 729 (Mo. App. E.D. 2000) (holding an agency has inherent authority to dismiss an untimely claim).
- Complainant’s BOE appeal was untimely. Respondent asserts the STC lacks statutory authority to hear and decide the appeal because Complainant’s BOE appeal was untimely pursuant to Section 137.275 and Section 137.385. Both statutes require property owners to appeal tax assessments to the BOE “before the second Monday in July[.]” Complainant asserts its March 25, 2021, BOE appeal challenging Respondent’s 2020 assessment was timely because it was filed before the second Monday in July in 2021.
The stated premise of Complainant’s argument is that a “BOE appeal may be filed in any year just before the BOE has its annual meeting which is in July.” (Sugg. in Opp. At 4; emphasis added). Complainant’s argument assumes the statutory deadline for filing appeals to the BOE is not tied to any given year and that a BOE appeal for a particular year can be filed in any year thereafter. Complainant is incorrect.
Statutory language “must be considered in context and sections of the statutes in pari materia, as well as cognate sections, must be considered in order to arrive at the true meaning and scope of the words.” Cosby v. Treasurer of State, 579 S.W.3d 202, 206 (Mo. banc 2019). The appeal provisions of Section 137.385 are part of a comprehensive statutory framework governing the administration of ad valorem taxes. See State ex rel. St. Francois Cty. Sch. Dist. R-III v. Lalumondier, 518 S.W.2d 638, 640 (Mo. 1975). This statutory context informs the meaning and scope of Section 137.385.
Section 137.385 authorizes an aggrieved person to appeal “the assessment” and further requires that “such appeal” must be filed “before the second Monday in July.” Critically, real property is assessed “annually at the assessment which commences on the first day of January.” Section 137.080 (emphasis added); see also Section 137.115.1 (providing “the assessor shall annually assess all real property”). Considered in context, it is apparent that requiring appeals from “the assessment” to be filed “before the second Monday in July” refers to the second Monday in July immediately following the January 1 assessment date. If, as Complainant asserts, a BOE appeal can be filed in “any year” prior to “the second Monday in July,” then the BOE appeal process is decoupled from the statutorily mandated annual assessment date and a BOE appeal is always timely because every day is before a “second Monday in July.” Adopting Complainant’s interpretation effectively negates the Section 137.385 appeal deadline and requires concluding the definite statutory appeal deadline – “the second Monday in July” – is in effect no deadline at all. A statute will not be interpreted in a manner rendering it meaningless. Laut v. City of Arnold, 491 S.W.3d 191, 203 (Mo. banc 2016).
The second Monday in July, 2020, was July 13, 2020. Despite notice of the 2020 assessment and tax bill, Complainant did not file its BOE appeal until March 25, 2021, over eight months after the July 13, 2020, statutory deadline. Complainant’s BOE appeal was untimely.
Complainant asserted during the motion hearing that by issuing a decision denying the appeal, the BOE exercised its discretion pursuant to Section 137.385 to extend the appeal deadline, thus requiring the conclusion that Complainant’s BOE appeal was timely. While Section 137.385 provides the BOE “may in its discretion extend the time for filing such appeals[,]” there is no indication the BOE actually extended the deadline for filing BOE appeals from Respondent’s 2020 assessments. Rather than stating there is “no change” or modifying the assessment based on evidence, the record reflects that the BOE denied Complainant’s appeal. This disposition is consistent with the fact Complainant’s BOE appeal was untimely.
- The STC lacks authority. Filing a timely appeal is “the vital step for perfecting an appeal and is necessary to invoke appellate jurisdiction.” State v. Hayes, 394 S.W.2d 346 (Mo. 1965). This general principle applies with equal force here, because the STC’s authority to review an appeal from the BOE is “derivative or appellate in nature and hence the power or jurisdiction of the Commission [is] no more extensive than that possessed by the [BOE].” Foster Bros. Mfg. Co. v. State Tax Comm’n, 319 S.W.2d 590, 595 (Mo. 1958); see also Armstrong-Trotwood, LLC v. State Tax Comm’n, 516 S.W.3d 830, 837 (Mo. banc 2017) (holding the Commission’s authority to consider an appeal “is derivative” of the BOE). Therefore, Complainant’s untimely BOE appeal, in effect, is no appeal at all, and leaves the STC with nothing to review.
Complainant’s citation to Section 138.430.1 does not dictate a different result. In pertinent part, Section 138.430.1 provides a property owner “shall have the right to appeal from the local boards of equalization to the state tax commission under rules prescribed by the state tax commission, within the time prescribed in this chapter or thirty days following the final action of the local board of equalization, whichever date later occurs[.]” Complainant asserts the STC has authority to review the appeal because Complainant filed its STC appeal on September 13, 2021, within 30 days of the BOE’s final action.
Complainant’s assertion that Section 138.430.1 authorizes the underlying appeal is beset by the same irreducible problem as its reliance on Section 137.275; namely, that Complainant’s BOE appeal was untimely. Complainant’s untimely BOE appeal does not invoke the STC’s derivative authority to hear and decide the appeal. Like its analysis of the BOE appeal deadlines, adopting Complainant’s argument severs the link between the statutorily mandated annual assessment date and the deadlines for filing an STC appeal. Like Complainant’s analysis of the BOE appeal deadline, the inevitable result would be the effective removal of any temporal limit on STC appeals, no matter how far removed the purported BOE appeal is from the year of assessment. The necessary logic of Complainant’s position is that every unappealed assessment is subject to collateral attack in perpetuity. Neither the text nor the context of Section 138.375 or Section 138.430 compels this conclusion.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
Respondent’s motion to dismiss is sustained. Complainant’s appeal is dismissed because the STC lacks authority to determine the merits of the appeal.
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. Charles 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 December 17, 2021.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Eric S. Peterson
Senior Hearing Officer
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been electronically mailed and/or sent by U.S. Mail on December 17, 2021, to: Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
 All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.
 Section 137.325 provides “[t]he provisions of sections 137.325 to 137.420 shall apply only to counties within the first class as provided by law.” The applicable statute is Section 137.385, which applies to first-class counties such as St. Charles County
 12 CSR 30-3.010(1)(B) provides “[a] complaint appealing a property assessment shall be filed not later than September 30 or within thirty (30) days of the decision of the board of equalization, whichever is later.”