State Tax Commission of Missouri
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Decision of the County Board of Equalization St. Louis County sustaining the assessment made by the Assessor is AFFIRMED. Complainant did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the Board of Equalization.
True value in money for the subject property for tax years 2015 and 2016 is set at $118,500, commercial assessed value of $37,920.
Complainant appeared pro se.
Respondent appeared by attorney Steven Robson
Case heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer John Treu.
Complainant appeals, on the ground of overvaluation and discrimination, the decision of the St. Louis County Board of Equalization, which sustained the valuation of the subject property. The Commission takes this appeal to determine the true value in money for the subject property on January 1, 2015. The value as of January 1 of the odd numbered year remains the value as of January 1 of the following even numbered year unless there is new construction and improvement to the property. Section 137.115.1 RSMo
The Hearing Officer, having considered all of the competent evidence upon the whole record, enters the following Decision and Order.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction over this appeal is proper. Complainant timely appealed to the State Tax Commission from the decision of the St. Louis County Board of Equalization.
- Evidentiary Hearing. The Evidentiary Hearing was held on November 23, 2016 at the St. Louis County Administration Building, Clayton, Missouri.
- Identification of Subject Property. The subject property is identified by map parcel number or locator number 14J520346. It is further identified as 3733 North Hanley, St. Louis, Missouri. (Complaint for Review of Assessment)
- Description of Subject Property. The subject property consists of a commercial tract of land improved by multiple structures of which 5,295 square feet are covered by a roof. The subject property is abutted by property or properties which could constitute a nuisance (St. Louis County Assessor’s Public Database and Complainant’s Testimony).
- Assessment. The Assessor valued the property at $118,500, commercial assessed value of $37,920. The Board of Equalization sustained the assessor’s valuation (Ex. 1)
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant offered into evidence Exhibit A and Exhibit B. Exhibit A consisted of multiple photographs. Exhibit B consisted of multiple documents and photographs. The photographs depict the property and surrounding area. They include photographs of structures, stacks of tires, utility property, dumpsters, and salvage vehicles. The documents include notices from the Village of Bel-Ridge to the Complainant to paint his structures and to tend to weeds. Other documents were dated from the late 1980s and 1990s. The exhibits were received into evidence without objection to be given such weight as the Hearing Officer deemed appropriate.
- No Evidence of New Construction & Improvement. There was no evidence of new construction and improvement from January 1, 2015 to January 1, 2016 therefore the assessed value for 2015 remains the assessed value for 2016. Section 137.115.1, RSMo.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent offered into evidence Exhibit 1. Exhibit 1 consisted of the Board of Equalization Decision. Exhibit 1 was received into evidence without objection.
- Presumption of Correct Assessment Not Rebutted. Complainant’s evidence was not substantial and persuasive to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the Board.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND DECISION
The Commission has jurisdiction to hear this appeal and correct any assessment which is shown to be unlawful, unfair, arbitrary or capricious. The hearing officer shall issue a decision and order affirming, modifying or reversing the determination of the board of equalization, and correcting any assessment which is unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary, or capricious. Article X, Section 14, Mo. Const. of 1945; Sections 138.430, 138.431, 138.431.4, RSMo.
Basis of Assessment
The Constitution mandates that real property and tangible personal property be 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. The constitutional mandate is to find the true value in money for the property under appeal. By statute commercial real property are assessed at 32% of true value in money (Section 137.115.5, RSMo).
Presumption In Appeal
There is a presumption of validity, good faith and correctness of assessment by the County Board of Equalization. Hermel, Inc. v. STC, 564 S.W.2d 888, 895 (Mo. banc 1978); Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co. v. STC, 436 S.W.2d 650, 656 (Mo. 1968); May Department Stores Co. v. STC, 308 S.W.2d 748, 759 (Mo. 1958). This presumption is a rebuttable rather than a conclusive presumption. It places the burden of going forward with some substantial evidence on the taxpayer – Complainant.
Complainant’s Burden of Proof
In order to prevail, Complainant must present an opinion of market value and substantial and persuasive evidence that the proposed value is indicative of the market value of the subject property on January 1, 2015. Hermel, supra. There is no presumption that the taxpayer’s opinion is correct. The taxpayer in a Commission appeal still bears the burden of proof. The taxpayer is the moving party seeking affirmative relief. Therefore, the Complainant bears the burden of proving the vital elements of the case, i.e., the assessment was “unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary or capricious.” See, Westwood Partnership v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003); Daly v. P. D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002); Reeves v. Snider, 115 S.W.3d 375 (Mo. App. S.D. 2003). A valuation which does not reflect the fair market value (true value in money) of the property under appeal is an unlawful, unfair and improper assessment.
Standard for Valuation
Section 137.115, RSMo, requires that property be assessed based upon its true value in money which is defined as the price a property would bring when offered for sale by one willing or desirous to sell and bought by one who is willing or desirous to purchase but who is not compelled to do so. St. Joe Minerals Corp. v. State Tax Commission, 854 S.W.2d 526, 529 (Mo. App. E.D. 1993); Missouri Baptist Children’s Home v. State Tax Commission, 867 S.W.2d 510, 512 (Mo. banc 1993). True value in money is defined in terms of value in exchange and not value in use. Daly v. P. D. George Company, et al, 77 S.W.3d 645, 649 (Mo. App E.D. 2002), citing, Equitable Life Assurance Society v. STC, 852 S.W.2d 376, 380 (Mo. App. 1993); citing, Stephen & Stephen Properties, Inc. v. STC, 499 S.W.2d 798, 801-803 (Mo. 1973).
It is the fair market value of the subject property on the valuation date. Hermel, supra.
Market value is the most probable price in terms of money which a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller, each acting prudently, knowledgeable and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus.
Implicit in this definition are the consummation of a sale as of a specific date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby:
- Buyer and seller are typically motivated.
- Both parties are well informed and well advised, and both acting in what they consider their own best interests.
- A reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market.
- Payment is made in cash or its equivalent.
- Financing, if any, is on terms generally available in the Community at the specified date and typical for the property type in its locale.
- The price represents a normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special financing amounts and/or terms, services, fees, costs, or credits incurred in the transaction. Real Estate Appraisal Terminology, Society of Real Estate Appraisers, Revised Edition, 1984; See also, Real Estate Valuation in Litigation, J. D. Eaton, M.A.I., American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers, 1982, pp. 4-5; Property Appraisal and Assessment Administration, International Association of Assessing Officers, 1990, pp. 79-80; Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, Glossary.
Methods of Valuation
Proper methods of valuation and assessment of property are delegated to the Commission. It is within the purview of the Hearing Officer to determine the method of valuation to be adopted in a given case. See, Nance v. STC, 18 S.W.3d 611, at 615 (Mo. App. W.D. 2000); Hermel, supra; Xerox Corp. v. STC, 529 S.W.2d 413 (Mo. banc 1975). Missouri courts have approved the comparable sales or market approach, the cost approach and the income approach as recognized methods of arriving at fair market value. St. Joe Minerals Corp. v. STC, 854 S.W.2d 526, 529 (App. E.D. 1993); Aspenhof Corp. v. STC, 789 S.W.2d 867, 869 (App. E.D. 1990); Quincy Soybean Company, Inc., v. Lowe, 773 S.W.2d 503, 504 (App. E.D. 1989), citing Del-Mar Redevelopment Corp v. Associated Garages, Inc., 726 S.W.2d 866, 869 (App. E.D. 1987); and State ex rel. State Highway Comm’n v. Southern Dev. Co., 509 S.W.2d 18, 27 (Mo. Div. 2 1974).
Owner’s Opinion of Value
The owner of property is generally held competent to testify to its reasonable market value. Rigali v. Kensington Place Homeowners’ Ass’n, 103 S.W.3d 839, 846 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003); Boten v. Brecklein, 452 S.W.2d 86, 95 (Sup. 1970). The owner’s opinion is without probative value; however, where it is shown to have been based upon improper elements or an improper foundation. Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, (Mo. App. E.D., March 25, 2008); Carmel Energy, Inc. v. Fritter, 827 S.W.2d 780, 783 (Mo. App. W.D. 1992).
“Where the basis for a test as to the reliability of the testimony is not supported by a statement of facts on which it is based, or the basis of fact does not appear to be sufficient, the testimony should be rejected.” Carmel Energy at 783. A taxpayer does not meet his burden if evidence on any essential element of his case leaves the Commission “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).
Weight to be Given Evidence
The Hearing Officer is not bound by any single formula, rule or method in determining true value in money, but is free to consider all pertinent facts and estimates and give them such weight as reasonably they may be deemed entitled. The relative weight to be accorded any relevant factor in a particular case is for the Hearing Officer to decide. St. Louis County v. Security Bonhomme, Inc., 558 S.W.2d 655, 659 (Mo. banc 1977); St. Louis County v. STC, 515 S.W.2d 446, 450 (Mo. 1974); Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company v. STC, 436 S.W.2d 650 (Mo. 1968).
Complainant Fails to Prove Value
Complainant proposes a value of $59,250 which is precisely one-half of the value determined by the Assessor and Board of Equalization. Complainant presented no evidence utilizing any accepted method of appraisal to support his proposed value. Complainant’s exhibits and testimony shows that the areas around subject property might constitute a nuisance. However, Complainant did not provide substantial and persuasive evidence that the Respondent’s determination of value did not consider any impact of the surrounding properties’ condition or establish the true value of the property and the monetary impact of such nuisance on the subject property’s true market value. Consequently, Complainant failed to meet his burden of proof.
In fact, Complainant’s own testimony supports Respondent’s valuation. Complainant asserts that he has publically advertised the property for many years, whether through on-line listings or a sign on the subject property. Complainant testified that he had received only one offer on the property, such being for the amount of $50,000 in October of 2016. Yet, on cross-examination by Respondent’s counsel, Complainant testified that he tells people that he would want between $150,000 and $175,000 for the property.
Although the Hearing Officer recognizes that a stated desired price and the price one would sell a property for are different, Complainant’s desired price is between $31,500 and $56,500 more than the true market value determined by the Assessor and Board of Equalization. If Complainant was only able to sell the property for 79% of the lower of his desired values ($150,000), such would equal the true market value set by the Assessor and Board of Equalization. Instead of rebutting the Board of Equalization presumption, this fact supports the true market value determined by the Assessor and sustained by the Board of Equalization.
Complainant Fails To Prove Discrimination
Where there is a claim of discrimination based upon a lack of valuation consistency, Complainants have the burden to prove the level of assessment for the subject property in 2015. This is done by independently determining the market value of the subject property and dividing the market value into the assessed value of the property as determined by the assessor’s office.
Complainants must then prove the average level of assessment for residential property in St. Louis County for 2015. This is done by (a) independently determining the market value of a representative sample of commercial properties in St. Louis County; (b) determining the assessed value placed on the property by the assessor’s office for the relevant year; (c) dividing the assessed value by the market value to determine the level of assessment for each property in the sample; and (d) determining the mean and median of the results.
The difference between the actual assessment level of the subject property and the average level of assessment for all commercial property, taken from a sufficient representative sample in St. Louis County must demonstrate a disparity that is grossly excessive.
Complainant’s discrimination claim fails because he failed to establish the market value of his property. Without establishing the market value, Complainant cannot establish his assessment ratio. Without establishing his ratio, he cannot establish that he is being assessed at a higher percentage of market value that any other property.
However, even if Complainant had established his market value, his discrimination claim would still fail because he did not demonstrate that a statistically significant number of other commercial properties within St. Louis County are being assessed at a lower ratio of market value than his property. Because Complainant has failed to establish the market value of his property and has failed to establish that he is being assessed at a higher percentage of market value than a statistically significant number of other properties in St. Louis County, he has failed to establish discrimination.
The assessed valuation for the subject property as determined by the Assessor and sustained by the Board of Equalization for St. Louis County for the subject tax day is AFFIRMED.
The assessed value for the subject property for tax years 2015 and 2016 is set at $37,920.
Application for Review
A party may file with the Commission an application for review of this decision within thirty days of the mailing date set forth in the Certificate of Service for this Decision. The application shall contain specific facts or law as grounds upon which it is claimed the decision is erroneous. Said application must be in writing addressed to the State Tax Commission of Missouri, P.O. Box 146, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146, and a copy of said application must be sent to each person at the address 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, RSMo
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 139.031.8, RSMo.
Any Finding of Fact which is a Conclusion of Law or Decision shall be so deemed. Any Decision which is a Finding of Fact or Conclusion of Law shall be so deemed.
SO ORDERED this 6th day of December, 2016.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Senior Hearing Officer
Certificate of Service