STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|)||Appeal No. 17-112179|
|Complainant,||)||Parcel/Loc. No. 20Q230230|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,
DECISION AND ORDER
The decision of the St. Louis County Board of Equalization (BOE) is AFFIRMED. Complainant Mohammed Helwani (Complainant) did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the BOE.
The evidentiary hearing in this case was scheduled to begin at 10:15 a.m., July 16, 2018, at the St. Louis County Government Administration Building in Clayton, Missouri. Complainant failed to appear at the evidentiary hearing and failed to prosecute the appeal. Respondent Jake Zimmerman, Assessor, St. Louis County, Missouri, (Respondent) appeared by Counsel Steve Robson, who announced ready for trial. Case decided by Senior Hearing Officer Amy S. Westermann (Hearing Officer).
Complainant appealed on the ground of overvaluation. Respondent initially set the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property at $1,318,000, as residential property, as of January 1, 2017. The BOE found the TVM of the subject property to be $1,200,000 as of January 1, 2017, thereby lowering Respondent’s valuation. The State Tax Commission (STC) takes this appeal to determine the TVM for the subject property as of January 1, 2017.
The Hearing Officer enters the following Decision and Order.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Jurisdiction over this appeal is proper. Complainant timely appealed to the STC.
- The subject property is located at 1107 Sheffield Manor Court, Chesterfield, Missouri. The property is identified by Parcel/Locator number 20Q230230.
- By Order dated December 12, 2017, (December 2017 Order) this case was set for a Prehearing Conference on March 7, 2018, at the St. Louis County Government Administration Building, 41 South Central Avenue, in Clayton, Missouri.
- Complainant appeared at the Prehearing Conference on March 7, 2018. Complainant participated in the Prehearing Conference with representatives of Respondent’s office and with the Hearing Officer.
- During the Prehearing Conference, by agreement of Complainant, counsel for Respondent, and the Hearing Officer, the appeal was scheduled for an Evidentiary Hearing on July 16, 2018, at 10:15 a.m., at the St. Louis County Government Administration Building, 41 South Central Avenue, in Clayton, Missouri. The date and time of the Evidentiary Hearing were memorialized in a written order provided to Complainant and provided to Respondent during the Prehearing Conference. The order informed Complainant that, if he could not attend the Evidentiary Hearing and needed a continuance, a request must be made in writing and filed with the Commission no later than five days before the date of the Prehearing Conference, not including intermediate Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. The order warned Complainant that if he did not appear at the hearing and no timely request for continuance were made, the appeal would be dismissed for failure to prosecute.
- Complainant did not make a request, timely or otherwise, for a continuance of the Evidentiary Hearing. Complainant did not communicate with the Hearing Officer regarding Complainant’s attendance at the Evidentiary Hearing.
- On July 16, 2018, the Evidentiary Hearing was commenced as scheduled. Complainant did not appear. Respondent appeared by counsel, who announced ready for trial. Following a grace period for Complainant to appear, the matter was placed on the record for the entry of decision noting Complainant’s failure to appear and to prosecute the appeal and affirming the decision of the BOE.
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, including the application of any abatement. The Hearing Officer shall issue a decision and order affirming, modifying, or reversing the determination of the BOE 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.
Presumptions In Appeals
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). In order to prevail, a complainant must rebut the presumption of correct assessment by presenting substantial and persuasive evidence as to the proper taxation of the subject property on the tax day at issue. Hermel, 564 S.W.2d at 895; Cupples-Hesse Corporation v. State Tax Commission, 329 S.W.2d 696, 702 (Mo. 1959). There is no presumption that the taxpayer’s opinion is correct. In an appeal before the Commission, the taxpayer still bears the burden of proof because the taxpayer is the moving party seeking affirmative relief. Therefore, a complainant must prove by a preponderance of substantial and persuasive the evidence 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, 161 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003); Reeves v. Snider, 115 S.W.3d 375, 379 (Mo. App. S.D. 2003); Daly v. P. D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645, 648 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002); Industrial Development Authority of Kansas City v. State Tax Commission of Missouri, 804 S.W.2d 387, 392 (Mo. App. W.D. 1991).
Complainant failed to appear and to prosecute the appeal and failed to present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption that the BOE’s determination of the TVM of the subject property was correct.
At the Prehearing Conference, Complainant agreed to the date and time set for the Evidentiary Hearing and received a written order memorializing the date and time for the Evidentiary Hearing. The written order informed Complainant that, if he could not attend the Evidentiary Hearing and needed a continuance, a request must be made in writing and filed with the Commission no later than five days before the date of the Prehearing Conference, not including intermediate Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. The order warned Complainant that if he did not appear at the hearing and no timely request for continuance were made, the appeal would be dismissed for failure to prosecute. Complainant made no request to continue the Evidentiary Hearing and did not otherwise communicate with the Hearing Officer. Therefore, because Complainant failed to appear at the Evidentiary Hearing and failed to prosecute the appeal, the BOE’s determination that the TVM of the subject property was $1,200,000 ($228,000) for tax years 2017 and 2018 is AFFIRMED.
Application for Review
Complainant 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. The application shall contain specific 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 appeal is based may result in summary denial. Section 138.432 RSMo 2000.
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 a 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 2000, as amended.
Any Finding of Fact that is a Conclusion of Law or Decision shall be so deemed. Any Decision that is a Finding of Fact or Conclusion of Law shall be so deemed.
SO ORDERED July 26, 2018.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Amy S. Westermann
Senior Hearing Officer
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been sent electronically or mailed postage prepaid this 26th day of July, 2018, to: Complainants(s) counsel and/or Complainants, the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.