State Tax Commission of Missouri
|RICHARD & CAROL WATSON||)|
|)||Appeal Number 13-89502|
|CHUCK PENNEL, ASSESSOR,||)|
|TANEY COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
This appeal is submitted on the record by agreement of the parties. Decision of the County Board of Equalization affirming the assessment made by the Taney County Assessor is AFFIRMED. Complainants 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 2013 and 2014 is set at $69,000, residential assessed value of $13,110.
Case decided on the record by Senior Hearing Officer John Treu.
Complainants appeal, on the ground of overvaluation and discrimination, the decision of the Taney 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, 2013. 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. Complainants timely appealed to the State Tax Commission from the decision of the Taney County Board of Equalization.
- Evidentiary Hearing. The case was submitted on the record by agreement of the parties.
- Identification of Subject Property. The subject property is identified by map parcel number or locator number 08-4.0-17-000-000-004.098. Such is a vacant lot in Branson, Missouri, Taney County, Missouri. (Ex. A).
- Description of Subject Property. The subject property consists of a vacant lot. Such lot consists of .54 acres. (Ex. C).
- Sale of Subject. The subject property was purchased by Complainant in 2007 for $110,000. See, Methods of Valuation, infra.
- Assessment. The Assessor appraised the property at $69,000, an assessed residential value of $13,110. The Board of Equalization sustained the appraisal of the property at $69,000, an assessed value of $13,110. (Ex. A)
- Complainant’s Evidence. Multiple documents were submitted by Complainants. Such documents were received by the State Tax Commission on 8/6/2014, 4/15/2014, 7/25/2014 and 9/30/2014 (correspondence with contentions). Although the documents submitted on 4/15/2014 were marked with exhibit numbers and letters, all of the exhibits have been remarked with the letters, A, B, C and D, to correspond with their submission date. Each exhibit is being considered part of the evidentiary record, but only given such weight as appropriate. Exhibit A consists of Complainants’ Complaint for Review of Assessment, the Taney County Board of Equalization decision of July 11, 2013, a letter from Richard Watson dated June 17, 2013, and an attachment to such letter listing nine (9) properties and various purported particulars relating to each. Exhibit B consists of a letter to the State Tax Commission dated April 10, 2014, a Taney County Board of Equalization letter, dated July 11, 2013, regarding a property not the subject of this appeal, a Taney County Board of Equalization letter, dated July 11, 2013 regarding the subject property and various other documents relating to other purported relevant properties and certain particulars regarding each. Exhibit C consists of a letter to the State Tax Commission dated July 20, 2014 and “6 MLS Sold Sheets of ‘on the Golf Course’ lot in my size .54 Acres”. Exhibit D consists of an email from Mr. Watson to this Hearing Officer (which was forwarded to Respondent) making contentions regarding 8 MLS listings. All of the exhibits are made part of the evidentiary record, but only given such weight as appropriate
- No Evidence of New Construction & Improvement. There was no evidence of new construction and improvement from January 1, 2013, to January 1, 2014, therefore the assessed value for 2013 remains the assessed value for 2014. Section 137.115.1, RSMo.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent submitted no evidence.
- Presumption of Correct Assessment Not Rebutted. Complainants’ evidence was not substantial and persuasive to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the Board and establish the true value in money as of January 1, 2013. See, Presumption In Appeal, infra.
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 real and tangible personal property are assessed at set percentages of true value in money. Section 137.115.5, RSMo – residential property at 19% of true value in money; commercial property at 32% of true value in money and agricultural property at 12% of true value in money.
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. When some substantial evidence is produced by the Complainant, “however slight”, the presumption disappears and the Hearing Officer, as trier of facts, receives the issue free of the presumption. United Missouri Bank of Kansas City v. March, 650 S.W.2d 678, 680-81 (Mo. App. 1983), citing to State ex rel. Christian v. Lawry, 405 S.W.2d 729, 730 (Mo. App. 1966) and cases therein cited. The presumption is not evidence of value. The presumption of correct assessment is rebutted when the taxpayer presents substantial and persuasive evidence to establish that the Board’s valuation is erroneous and what the fair market value should have been placed on the property. Hermel, supra; Cupples-Hesse Corporation v. State Tax Commission, 329 S.W.2d 696, 702 (Mo. 1959).
Substantial evidence can be defined as such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. See, Cupples-Hesse, supra. Persuasive evidence is that evidence which has sufficient weight and probative value to convince the trier of fact. The persuasiveness of evidence does not depend on the quantity or amount thereof but on its effect in inducing belief. Brooks v. General Motors Assembly Division, 527 S.W.2d 50, 53 (Mo. App. 1975).
The presentation of the Complainants’ evidence (Ex. A through D) was not sufficient to make the presumption in this appeal disappear. The case is decided free of the presumption.
Complainants’ Burden of Proof
In order to prevail, Complainants 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, 2013. 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); Industrial Development Authority of Kansas City v. State Tax Commission of Missouri, 804 S.W.2d 387, 392 (Mo. App. 1991). 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.
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); State, ex rel. Missouri Hwy & Transp. Com’n v. Pracht, 801 S.W.2d 90, 94 (Mo. App. E.D. 1990); Shelby County R-4 School District v. Hermann, 392 S.W.2d 609, 613 (Sup. 1965).
“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).
In this appeal, Complainants’ evidence leaves the Commission “in the nebulous twilight of speculation, conjecture and surmise.” Id. Complainants’ evidence regarding other properties and what they sold for are irrelevant in the manner in which they were presented. Such were not submitted as part of an appraisal report, with appropriate adjustments being made for various differences in the properties. Furthermore, no written direct testimony of any appropriate witness was submitted regarding such properties. The sales prices or appraised values of other properties are not relevant without such being supported in the proper fashion. Complainants did not meet their burden.
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.
Hearsay and Relevance
In evidentiary law there are two important and fundamental concepts relating to the admissibility of evidence, whether in testimonial or documentary form. Those two principles are hearsay and relevance. Either can be sufficient in various circumstances to exclude testimony or documents from coming into the evidentiary record.
Black’s Law Dictionary, Seventh Edition (1999), p. 726, defines hearsay as follows: “Traditionally, testimony that is given by a witness who relates not what he or she knows personally, but what others have said, and that is therefore dependent upon the credibility of someone other than the witness. Such testimony is generally inadmissible under the rules of evidence.” McCormick on Evidence, Third Edition, (1984), p. 729, defines the term as; “a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” The Courtroom Handbook on Missouri Evidence Missouri Practice, William A. Schroeder – 2012, Principle 800.c, p. 504,
follows the definition given by the Federal Rules and cited by McCormick. The out of court statement can take the form of either oral or written assertions. Therefore, documents which make assertions of facts are hearsay, just as well, as the speech of another person.
The hearsay rule provides that “no assertion offered as testimony can be received unless it is or has been open to test by cross-examination or an opportunity for cross-examination, except as otherwise provide by the rules of evidence, by court rules or by statute.” Black’s, supra – hearsay rule, p. 726. The rationale behind the rule is quite simply that out of court hearsay statements are not made under oath and cannot be subject to cross-examination. Accordingly, when various documents, such as but not limited to, Internet, newspaper and magazine articles are offered as exhibits in a hearing before the Commission, unless the document falls within one of the exceptions to the hearsay rule, upon objection such must be excluded.
The principle of relevance is the second critical evidentiary factor that must be considered when testimony and documents are tendered for admission into an evidentiary record. For facts, information or opinions to be relevant they must be connected in a logical manner and tend to prove or disprove a matter that is at issue in the proceeding. Black’s, supra – relevant, p. 1293. McCormick explains that “There are two components to relevant evidence: materiality and probative value. Materiality looks to the relation between the propositions for which the evidence is offered and the issues of the case. If the evidence is offered to help prove a proposition which is not a matter in issue, the evidence is immaterial. . . . The second aspect of relevance is probative value, the tendency of evidence to establish the proposition that it is offered to prove.” McCormick, supra – p. 541. Evidence, that tends to prove or disprove a fact that is at issue or of consequence, is relevant. Missouri Practice, supra – p. 95.
In appeals on the value of property, the issue is what a willing buyer and seller would have agreed to as the purchase price on the applicable valuation date. The issue is not what real estate price trends in general may have been or any given period of time. The issue is specific to the property that is under appeal. Therefore, general statements, claims, conclusions and opinions as to what the “market for homes” has or hasn’t done do not meet the factors of materiality and probative value and are accordingly irrelevant. The fact that some report provides general information on home values is addressing a matter that is not at issue in an appeal. Such information is not material. Furthermore, such general data does not tend to prove what the property under appeal was worth on the given valuation date. For example, a report that home prices in the nation, region or certain metropolitan area over a four or five year period decreased by a certain average percentage provides no factual information as to the price or value of any given home. In other words, such information is not probative on the issue of value. It does nothing to prove that a given property is worth one amount or another.
Investigation by Hearing Officer
In order to investigate appeals filed with the Commission, 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. The Hearing Officer’s decision regarding the assessment or valuation of the property may be based solely upon his inquiry and any evidence presented by the parties, or based solely upon evidence presented by the parties. Section 138.430.2, RSMo.
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).
The Hearing Officer as the trier of fact may consider the testimony of an expert witness and give it as much weight and credit as he may deem it entitled to when viewed in connection with all other circumstances. The Hearing Officer is not bound by the opinions of experts who testify on the issue of reasonable value, but may believe all or none of the expert’s testimony and accept it in part or reject it in part. St. Louis County v. Boatmen’s Trust Co., 857 S.W.2d 453, 457 (Mo. App. E.D. 1993); Vincent by Vincent v. Johnson, 833 S.W.2d 859, 865 (Mo. 1992); Beardsley v. Beardsley, 819 S.W.2d 400, 403 (Mo. App. 1991); Curnow v. Sloan, 625 S.W.2d 605, 607 (Mo. banc 1981).
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).
The Supreme Court of Missouri has also held that evidence of the actual sales price of property is admissible to establish value at the time of an assessment, provided that such evidence involves a voluntary purchase not too remote in time. The actual sale price is a method that may be considered for estimating true value. St. Joe Minerals Corp., supra
In order to obtain a reduction in assessed value based upon discrimination, the Complainants must (1) prove the true value in money of their property on January 1, 2013; and (2) show an intentional plan of discrimination by the assessing officials resulting in an assessment of that property at a greater percentage of value than other property, generally, within the same class within the same taxing jurisdiction. Koplar v. State Tax Commission, 321 S.W.2d 686, 690, 695 (Mo. 1959). Evidence of value and assessments of a few properties does not prove discrimination. Substantial evidence must show that all other property in the same class, generally, is actually undervalued. State ex rel. Plantz v. State Tax Commission, 384 S.W.2d 565, 568 (Mo. 1964). The difference in the assessment ratio of the subject property the average assessment ratio in the subject county must be shown to be grossly excessive. Savage v. State Tax Commission of Missouri, 722 S.W.2d 72, 79 (Mo. banc 1986). No other methodology is sufficient to establish discrimination. Cupples-Hesse, supra.
Complainants Fail 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 2013. 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 Taney County for 2013. This is done by (a) independently determining the market value of a representative sample of residential properties in Taney 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 residential property, taken from a sufficient representative sample in Taney County must demonstrate a disparity that is grossly excessive. Savage, supra.
Complainants’ discrimination claim fails because they failed to establish the market value of their property. Without establishing their market value, they cannot establish their assessment ratio. Without establishing their ratio, they cannot establish that they are being assessed at a higher percentage of market value that any other property.
However, even if Complainants had established their market value, their discrimination claim would still fail because they have not demonstrated that a statistically significant number of other residential properties within Taney County are being assessed at a lower ratio of market value than their property. Complainants’ claim of discrimination is at best based upon a very small percentage of properties in Taney County that do not represent a statistically significant number of properties.
Because Complainants have failed to establish the market value of their property and have failed to establish that they are being assessed at a higher percentage of market value than a statistically significant number of other properties in Taney County, they have failed to establish discrimination.
The assessed valuation for the subject property as determined by the Assessor and sustained by the Board of Equalization for Taney County for the subject tax day is AFFIRMED.
The assessed value for the subject property for tax years 2013 and 2014 is set at $13,110.
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 Taney 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 16th day of October, 2014.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Senior Hearing Officer
Delivery or Notice was made via mail, email, fax, or personally on October 16th, 2014 to the following Individuals of this Decision/Order/Holding
Richard & Carol Watson, 1486 Resthaven Way, The Villages, FL 32163, Complainant;
Chuck Pennel, Assessor, PO Box 612 Forsyth, MO 65653, Respondent;
Sheila Wyatt, Collector, PO Box 278 Forsyth, MO 65653
Donna Neeley, Clerk, PO Box 156, Forsyth, MO 65653