STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|RADIANT LIFE IN CHRIST MINISTRIES,||)|
|v.||)||Appeal No. 21-111329|
|)||Parcel No. 13G321416|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Radiant Life in Christ Ministries, (Complainant) appeals from the St. Louis County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision granting a tax exemption beginning January 1, 2020, but denying Complainant’s request for a retroactive tax exemption for tax years 2014 through 2019. Complainant requests the STC to order a retroactive exemption and refund of taxes paid from 2014 through 2019. Respondent filed a motion to dismiss asserting the STC lacks authority to order the requested relief.
Complainant filed the underlying STC appeal in 2021. The 2021 appeal does not vest the STC with authority to order a retroactive exemption for tax years 2014 through 2019 or a refund of taxes paid. The BOE decision is affirmed.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Complainant acquired the subject property in 1992 via a trustee’s deed. At all relevant times, Complainant was the owner of the subject property. (Complainant’s Ex. 2)
- The subject property is located at 8484 Jennings Station Road in St. Louis County, Missouri. Complainant is a nonprofit entity that is a member in good standing of a religious organization. (Complainant’s Ex. 3)
- On June 13, 2020, Complainant filed a petition for exemption with the BOE. (Complainant’s App. Pet. at 11) The petition alleged the subject property should have been removed from the tax roll in 2014. Complainant admits that as of the petition date, $126,304.74 in back taxes were owed on the subject property. (Complainant’s Ex. 7)
- On June 21, 2021, the BOE issued a decision exempting the subject property from taxation beginning in tax year 2020. The BOE denied Complainant’s request for a retroactive exemption for tax years 2014 through 2019. (Complainant’s Ex. 8)
- Complainant filed the underlying STC appeal on July 21, 2021. Complainant’s appeal included an attachment entitled “An Appeal for Retroactive Exemption” requesting a “retroactive tax exemption for tax years 2014 through 2019” and a refund of “all the funds already paid[.]” (Complainant’s App. Pet. at 1, 4)
- As of July 21, 2021, Complainant had not paid taxes owed for 2019 or 2018. (Complainant’s Ex. 6) Complainant paid the 2014 through 2017 taxes after the December 31 due date. Complainant paid the 2014 and 2015 taxes on March 22, 2018; the 2016 taxes on July 26, 2019; and the 2017 taxes on July 24, 2020. (Id.)
- Complainant does not allege and has not shown it filed a circuit court action or STC appeal of the 2014 through 2019 assessments within 90 days of making a payment under protest.
- Respondent filed a motion to dismiss asserting the STC lacked authority to grant the requested relief because Complainant failed to comply with the protest procedures set forth in Section 139.031 RSMo 2000.
- On August 9, 2022, the undersigned hearing officer provided counsel for both parties notice that a hearing on Respondent’s motion would be held on August 24, 2022. Respondent’s counsel appeared at the August 24, 2022, hearing. Complainant’s counsel did not appear.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
- Authority. The STC’s statutory 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). An administrative agency action exceeding its statutory authority is void. C.D.J. v. Missouri Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 507 S.W.3d 605, 611 (Mo. App. 2016) (holding an agency action exceeding its statutory authority is void ab initio).
- Complainant’s 2019 BOE petition does not vest the STC with authority to order an exemption for tax years 2014 through 2019.
Complainant’s request for a retroactive exemption and refund fails because the STC lacks authority to grant the requested relief. At least two statutory provisions independently dictate this result.
To recover taxes allegedly collected illegally, the taxpayer must pay the taxes in compliance with Section 139.031. Council House Redevelopment Corp. v. Hill, 920 S.W.2d 890, 891 (Mo. banc 1996). The remedy provided by Section 139.031 “is exclusive” and noncompliance “bars recovery of the taxes in question.” Nexus Rent-A-Car, Inc. v. Nash, 747 S.W.2d 683, 687 (Mo. App. 1988).
Section 139.031.1 requires a taxpayer paying under protest to “make full payment of the current tax bill before the delinquency date and file with the collector a written statement setting forth the grounds on which the protest is based.” Section 137.075 provides “[e]very person owning or holding real property or tangible personal property on the first day of January, including all such property purchased on that day, shall be liable for taxes thereon during the same calendar year.” (Emphasis added). Therefore, the “delinquency date” for purposes of Section 139.031.1 is December 31 of each tax year.
Complainant’s Exhibit 6 shows it did not make full, timely payment for tax years 2014 through 2019. Therefore, even if Complainant made some payments under protest, Complainant’s failure to make “full payment of the current tax bill before the delinquency date” establishes noncompliance with the mandatory Section 139.031 refund procedure. Complainant’s noncompliance “bars recovery of the taxes in question.” Nexus Rent-A-Car, 747 S.W.2d at 687.
Section 137.385 required Complainant to appeal the 2014 through 2019 tax assessments to the BOE “before the third Monday in June[.]” The necessary premise of Complainant’s retroactive exemption and refund request is that its 2020 BOE appeal timely requested an exemption for tax years 2014 through 2019. It did not.
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). Section 137.385 is 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 authorized Complainant to appeal “the assessment” and required that “such appeal” must be filed “before the third Monday in June.” Real property is assessed “annually at the assessment which commences on the first day of January.” Section 137.080; see also Section 137.115.1 (providing “the assessor shall annually assess all real property”). The plain language and context of Section 137.385 show that appeals from “the assessment” must be filed “before the third Monday in June” immediately following the January 1 assessment date. Complainant’s 2020 BOE appeal was untimely to the extent it requested a retroactive exemption for tax years 2014 through 2019. It follows that the STC lacks derivative authority to hear and decide Complainant’s request for an exemption for tax years 2014 through 2019. Foster Bros., 319 S.W.2d at 595.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
On this record, the STC lacks authority to grant a retroactive exemption for tax years 2014 through 2019. The BOE decision is affirmed.
Application for Review
A party may file 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 of Missouri, 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. Louis County, and 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 the disputed taxes have been disbursed pursuant to a court order under the provisions of section 139.031.
SO ORDERED September 23, 2022.
Eric S. Peterson
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 September 23, 2022, to: Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
Contact Information for State Tax Commission:
Missouri State Tax Commission
421 East Dunklin Street
P.O. Box 146
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146
 Section 138.430.5 provides: “[u]nless an appeal is voluntarily dismissed, a hearing officer, after affording the parties reasonable opportunity for fair hearing, 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.”
 All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.
 Similarly, Section 139.100.1 provides “[i]f any taxpayer shall fail or neglect to pay to the collector his taxes at the time required by law, then it shall be the duty of the collector, after the first day of January then next ensuing and in the absence of an agreement entered into pursuant to subdivision (2) of this subsection, to collect and account for, as other taxes, an additional tax, as penalty, the amount provided for in section 140.100.” Section 139.100.1 further confirms the delinquency date is December 31 following the January 1 assessment date.
 Section 139.031.1 also provides “[a]n appeal before the state tax commission shall not be dismissed on the grounds that a taxpayer failed to file a written statement when paying taxes based upon a disputed assessment.” This provision is irrelevant. The issue is Complainant’s failure to satisfy the independent obligation to make “full payment” of the taxes at issue.
 Effective August 28, 2020, the General Assembly amended Section 137.385 to extend the BOE appeal deadline to the “second Monday in July[.]”