STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 19-10794|
|v.||)||Parcel No. 14M520442|
|Jake Zimmerman, Assessor,||)|
|St. Louis County, Missouri||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Qing Fu (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, 2019, was $187,500 with an assessed value of $35,630. Complainant claims the property is overvalued and proposes a value of $135,000. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing overvaluation. The BOE’s decision is affirmed.
An evidentiary hearing was conducted remotely via Webex video on June 10, 2020. Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent was represented by counsel Steven Robson.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Subject Property. The subject property is located at 10720 Oak Pointe Dr. in St. Ann, Missouri. The parcel/locator number is 14M520442.
The subject property consists of a 7,841 square foot lot and a 1,460 square foot single family two-story home. The home has three bedrooms and two and one-half bathrooms. Complainant testified that around January of 2016, she purchased the subject property for approximately $129,000.
- Assessment and Valuation. Respondent classified the subject property as residential and determined the TVM on January 1, 2019, was $187,500. The BOE classified the subject property as residential and independently determined the TVM on January 1, 2019, was $187,500.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant testified the TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was around $135,000. Complainant submitted the following exhibits:
|A||Photograph of basement wall of subject property||Admitted|
|B||Photograph of another angle of same basement wall as Exhibit A||Admitted|
|C||Photograph of basement wall of subject property seen when entering basement||Admitted|
|D||Photograph of different basement wall of subject property||Admitted|
|E||Photograph of front of house and road||Admitted|
|F||Photograph of different angle of same front of house and road as Exhibit E||Admitted|
Complainant argued that the subject property was not comparable to other properties and offered her exhibits to show the actual condition of the house. Complainant’s testimony and Exhibits A and B illustrate flooding and leakage in the basement; Exhibit C depicts issues with the foundation; Exhibit D shows another foundation crack that leaks during hard rains; and Exhibits E and F illustrate the front of the house and the broken road that has remained in disrepair. Complainant also testified that the foundation of the house needs to be fixed, and, when it rains, water collects in a ditch on the right side of the house and causes flooding in the basement.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent submitted the following exhibits:
|1||October 4, 2019, Findings and Notice of Decision of BOE||Admitted|
|2||Comparative Market Analysis for subject property||Admitted|
|3||Map for Comparative Market Analysis||Admitted|
St. Louis County appraiser Astrid Reichenbacher testified in support of the BOE’s value. Ms. Reichenbacher indicated that Exhibit 2 provided a basis for giving an opinion on the subject property, and Exhibit 3 showed the location of the comparable sales utilized. Ms. Reichenbacher stated that 10764 Oak Point Drive was most comparable to the subject property and sold “as is” in March of 2019 for $187,500, which is the same value the assessor and BOE had placed on the subject property.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $187,500, with an assessed value of $35,630.
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). “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).
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. “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.
- Evidence. 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). 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.
- 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 or misclassified. Westwood P’ship v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152, 161 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003). The BOE’s valuation is presumptively correct. Tibbs v. Poplar Bluff Assocs. I, L.P., 599 S.W.3d 1, 7 (Mo. App. S.D. 2020). The “taxpayer may rebut this presumption by presenting substantial and persuasive evidence that the valuation is erroneous” and 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, 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 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 Prove Overvaluation. Complainant does not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing that the BOE’s valuation is erroneous and that her opinion of value, $135,000, is the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019. Complainant’s testimony and Exhibits A, B, C, and D establish that the house had leaking basement wall cracks. Complainant’s testimony and Exhibits E and F demonstrate that at the time the photographs were taken, the road in front of the subject property was in disrepair. However, Complainant neither demonstrates that the BOE’s valuation fails to take into account these and other conditions nor the specific monetary impact that such conditions have on the TVM of the subject property.
Even if Complainant had rebutted the presumption of correct valuation by the BOE, Complainant has not proven that the TVM of the subject property is $135,000 as of January 1, 2019. Complainant does not produce a mathematical calculation of how she arrived at her $135,000 opinion of value. If Complainant chose $135,000 because it is close to the approximate purchase price of the subject property around January of 2016, $129,000, no persuasive evidence explains why the purchase price three years earlier than the date of valuation, January 1, 2019, should be used to calculate the TVM.
Respondent, although not required to, presents persuasive evidence in support of the BOE’s valuation. When discussing Exhibit 2, Ms. Reichenbacher testified that 10764 Oak Point Dr. was the most comparable property to the subject property because both properties are on the same street and in the same school district. Ms. Reichenbacher stated that 10764 Oak Point Dr. was sold “as is” and in need of work in March of 2019 for $187,500, the same amount as the TVM of the subject property.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE’s decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019, was $187,500, with an assessed value of $35,630.
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.
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.
SO ORDERED February 26, 2021.
Laura A. Storck-Elam
Senior Hearing Officer
State Tax Commission
Certificate of Service
I certify that on February 26, 2021, a copy of the foregoing was sent via email to
Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
 During the evidentiary hearing, Complainant testified that although she listed a proposed value of $155,800 on the Complaint for Review of Assessment, she believes the value is around $135,000.
 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’s daughter translated during the evidentiary hearing.