Robert & Sharon McLaughlin v. Howard (Clinton)

August 17th, 2010

State Tax Commission of Missouri






v.)Appeal Nos.09-51502 – 09-51506,

)09-51524 & 09-51525









On August 17, 2010, Senior Hearing Officer Luann Johnson entered her Decision and Order (Decision).Complainants filed their Application for Review of the Decision.[1]The Application for Review was mailed on September 17, 2010, and faxed to the Commission on September 17, 2010.An application for review must be filed within thirty days of the mailing date shown in the Certificate of Service on the Decision.[2]Thirty days after the mailing of the Decision was September 16, 2010.Complainants did not timely pursue their administrative remedy of appeal to the Commission.


The Application for Review is denied as untimely filed.

Judicial review of this Order may be had in the manner provided in Sections 138.432 and 536.100 to 536.140, RSMo within thirty days of the mailing date set forth in the Certificate of Service for this Order.

If judicial review of this decision is made, any protested taxes presently in an escrow account in accordance with this appeal shall be held pending the final decision of the courts unless disbursed pursuant to Section 139.031.8, RSMo.

If no judicial review is made within thirty days, this decision and order is deemed final and the Collector of Clinton County, as well as the collectors of all affected political subdivisions therein, shall disburse the protested taxes presently in an escrow account in accord with the decision on the underlying assessment in this appeal.

SO ORDERED October 5, 2010.


Bruce E. Davis, Chairman

Jeff W. Schaeperkoetter, Commissioner










Decision of the Clinton County Board of Equalization sustaining the assessment made by the Assessor is SET ASIDE.The Hearing Officer finds that the proper classification of the above properties is agricultural, with the grades and values as set out below.








Hearing Officer

Use Value/AV










3.02 Ac./Grade 3






3.02 Ac./Grade 3






3.02 Ac./Grade 3






3.01 Ac./Grade 4






2.8 Ac./Grade 3

0.4 Ac./Grade 4







3.19 Ac./Grade 4




A hearing was conducted on March 18 and March 26, 2010, at the Clinton County Courthouse, Plattsburg, Missouri.

Complainants appeared pro se.

Respondent appeared by Counsel, Bill Burris, Associate County Counselor.

Case heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer Luann Johnson.


The Commission takes these appeals to determine the correct classification and true value in money for the subject properties on January 1, 2009, and January 1, 2010.


Complainants appeal, on the ground of misgraded agricultural land and discrimination, the decision of the Clinton County Board of Equalization, which sustained the Assessor’s valuation of the subject property.

Complainants’ claims of discrimination were dismissed as per the ruling contained in the transcript of proceedings (Tr. 187).

After hearing all of the evidence, this Hearing Officer determined that the properties should be assessed according to their productive use value rather than as vacant and unused agricultural properties.

Complainants’ Evidence

The hearing for McLaughlin Acres was combined with the hearing for Brooking Place lots and the Complainants’ residential property.The following exhibits were introduced into the hearing:[3]

Exhibit 1

McLaughlin Acres Plat

Exhibit 2

General Warranty Deed, Lot 11

Exhibit 3

’09 Real Estate Tax Receipt

Exhibit 4

Paid Tax Receipt

Exhibit 5

Summary of Tax Commission Case

Exhibit 3*

E-Mail from Randy Turley

Exhibit 4*

Bateman Decision

Exhibit 5

Reeves Decision

Exhibit 6

Summary of Tax Commission Case

Exhibit 7


Exhibit 8


Exhibit 9


Exhibit 10


Exhibit 11


Exhibit 12

’09 Tax Receipt

Exhibit 13

Tax Receipt

Exhibit 14

Tax Receipt

Exhibit 15

Tax Receipt

Exhibit 16

Tax Receipt

Exhibit 17

Tax Receipt

Exhibit 18


Exhibit 19



Tax Receipt

Exhibit 21

Tax Receipt

Exhibit 22

Tax Receipt

Exhibit 23

Appraisal Report of Mr. Downey

Exhibit 24


Exhibit 25


Exhibit 26

Repair Estimates on Residence

Exhibit 27

Plat Map

Exhibit 28

Downey appraisal report

Exhibit 29

CSR Soil GradeInformation


Only exhibits applicable to these properties were considered in determining value for the properties discussed in this decision.

Respondent’s Evidence

Respondent placed into evidence the testimony of Mr. James Downey.The appraiser testified as to his appraisal of Complainants’ residential property only.The Appraisal Report, Exhibit 28, of Mr. Downey, was received into evidence.Mr. Downey’s appraisal report will not be relied upon in this decision.


Complainant asserted at hearing that all of his land was in Grade 7, but that testimony is not persuasive in light of the availability of expert soil analysis.At the Hearing Officer’s request, Respondent produced the acreage of the subject parcels and the soil grades, as contained in official records within Respondent’s possession.And, upon receipt of said information, on June 21, 2010, the Hearing Officer advised the parties of her intent to take official notice, pursuant to Section 536.070(6), RSMo of said information, unless the parties demonstrated, by surveys or expert soil analysis, that said information was incorrect.Complainants do contest acreage in the Brooking Place appeals, but no such contest has been made of the acreage or soil grades for the McLaughlin Acres parcels which are the subject of this decision.


1.Jurisdiction over these appeals is proper.Complainants timely appealed to the State Tax Commission from the decisions of the Clinton County Board of Equalization.

2.Around 1998, Complainants subdivided a parcel of land into “McLaughlin Acres.”The unsold, and primarily unimproved, parcels are under appeal.Each parcel is about 3 acres.

3.The Assessor valued the subject parcels, and similarly platted small acreages (under 20 acres) as vacant and unused agricultural land.He also applied the vacant and unused classification to small residential lots in rural areas which are only used for hay or a horse (Tr. 192).Respondent testified that he followed this procedure upon the instruction of State Tax Commission officials.

4.Despite what Respondent may have been told by some official in the past, harvesting hay is an agricultural pursuit which qualifies land for productive use valuation.Bateman v. Rinehart, STC Appeals No. 09-32008 and 09-32009.

5.County soil maps indicate that the proper soil classifications for the subject parcels are Grades 3 and 4.

6.Complainants have been using the parcels for hay since about 2004 (Tr. 151).There has also been discussion about using the parcels for wheat (Tr. 151) and beans (Tr. 152).These crops are consistent with both Grade 3 and Grade 4 soils.12 CSR 30-4.010.

7.Complainant’s assertion that his land should be valued as Grade 7 is not persuasive in light of the soil analysis contained in the official records and the actual use of the land.Grade 7 land is “generally unsuited for cultivation.”12 CSR 30-4.010.

8.The Hearing Officer finds the correct productive use value/assessed value of the subject parcels to be as follows:

Appeal Number

Productive Use Value/Assessed Value














9.At hearing, Complainants presented evidence demonstrating that the property which is the subject of Appeal Number 09-51502 had been sold (Exhibit 2).At hearing, the County agreed to change their tax records and refund any taxes Complainants paid on the property since 2004.



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.[4]

Official and Judicial Notice

Agencies shall take official notice of all matters of which the courts take judicial notice.[5]

Courts will take judicial notice of their own records in the same cases.[6]In addition, courts may take judicial notice of records in earlier cases when justice requires[7] or when it is necessary for a full understanding of the instant appeal.[8] Courts may take judicial notice of their own records in prior proceedings involving the same parties and basically the same facts.[9]

Presumptions In Appeals

There is a presumption of validity, good faith and correctness of assessment by the CountyBoardof Equalization.[10]

The presumption in favor of the Board is not evidence.A presumption simply accepts something as true without any substantial proof to the contrary.In an evidentiary hearing before the Commission, the valuation determined by the Board, even if simply to sustain the value made by the Assessor, is accepted as true only until and so long as there is no substantial evidence to the contrary.

The presumption of correct assessment is rebutted when the taxpayer, or respondent when advocating a value different than that determined by the Board, 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.[11]

Agricultural Land

Under Missouri statutory law, property shall be classified as agricultural and horticultural property when “real property [is] used for agricultural purposes and devoted primarily to the raising and harvesting of crops . . .”Section 137.016.1(2), RSMo.The classification is determined by the actual use put to the property.[12]Cutting hay is an agricultural activity and such activity is sufficient to cause real property to be classified as “agricultural property.”[13]

Standard for Valuation

Section 137.017.1, RSMo provides “For general property assessment purposes, the true value in money of land which is in use as agricultural and horticultural property, as defined in Section 137.016, shall be that value which such land has for agricultural or horticultural use. . .”

Land Grades

Section 137.021.1, RSMo provides “ . . . .the state tax commission shall promulgate by regulation and publish a value based on productive capability for each of the several grades of agricultural and horticultural land. . . .”

Duty to Investigate

In order to investigate appeals filed with the Commission, the Hearing Officer has the duty to 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 its inquiry and any evidence presented by the parties, or based solely upon evidence presented by the parties.[14]

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.[15]

Trier of Fact

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.[16]

Owner’s Opinion of Value

The owner of property is generally held competent to testify to its reasonable market value.[17]The owner’s opinion is without probative value however, where it is shown to have been based upon improper elements or an improper foundation.[18]“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.”[19]

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.”[20]


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, 2009; 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.[21]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.[22]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.[23]No other methodology is sufficient to establish discrimination.[24]

Complainants Proved Misgraded Agricultural

Complainants have met their burden of proof.They established that the subject parcels had been used for hay production since at least 2004 up to and including the tax day.Once agricultural use is established, the only remaining issue is the appropriate land grade.

As discussed in the Findings of Fact, Complainants have not made a case establishing that their agricultural land is no better than Grade 7.Official soil maps and their own witnesses establish that the use and grades are 3 and 4.

Complainants Fail To Prove Discrimination

The evidence demonstrated that Respondent valued the Complainants’ agricultural property as vacant and unused agricultural property rather than with productive use values because the property was being used for harvesting hay.The evidence also demonstrated that Respondent valued all similarly situated properties the same way.Although it was a mistake to value such properties as vacant and unused, it was not discrimination inasmuch as all such properties were treated similarly.Complainants’ properties were not singled out for differential treatment.A mistake is not an intentional plan of discrimination.

Further, there is no evidence that Respondent knowingly engaged in any illegal or malicious activity, as Complainants want us to believe.Although the mistake might have originated in the Assessor’s office, or even with Tax Commission officials, Complainants’ own behavior created an atmosphere which was not conducive to resolving the conflict amicably.


The assessed valuation for the subject property as determined by the Assessor and sustained by the Board of Equalization for Clinton County for the subject tax day is SET ASIDE.

The assessed value for the subject properties for tax years 2009 and 2010 are set out in paragraph 8 above.

A party may file with the Commission an application for review of this decision within thirty (30) days of the mailing date shown 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, MO65102-0146, 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 will result in summary denial. [25]

The Collector of Clinton 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 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 August 17, 2010.


Luann Johnson, Senior Hearing Officer




[1] The document filed with the Commission was titled: Notice to Rebute the Decision and Order Finnal Order, When Nothing But Errors Are Present.Other Fact Issues Addressesed For Record and Stand as Irrefutable Facts Issues Supported by Verification of Documents Supportiing Rebutal.(sic)It is received as an Application for Review.


[2] DECISION, ORDER, p. 12; 12 CSR 30-3.080(4); Section 138.431, RSMo; Daly v. Warner-Jenkinson Mfg. Co., 92 S.W.3d 319 (Mo. App. E.D.).


[3]All may not be relevant to the determination of these appeals but all are listed so nothing will be deemed to have been erroneously excluded.


[4] Article X, section 14, Mo. Const. of 1945; Sections 138.430, 138.431, 138.431.4, RSMo.


[5] Section 536.070(6), RSMo.


[6] State ex rel. Horton v. Bourke, 129 S.W.2d 866, 869 (1939); Barth v. Kansas City Elevated Railway Company, 44 S.W. 788, 781 (1898).


[7] Burton v. Moulder, 245 S.W.2d 844, 846 (Mo. 1952); Knorp v. Thompson, 175 S.W.2d 889, 894 (1943); Bushman v. Barlow, 15 S.W.2d 329, 332 (Mo. banc 1929)


[8] State ex rel St. Louis Public Service Company v. Public Service Commission, 291 S.W.2d 95, 97 (Mo. banc 1956).


[9] In re Murphy, 732 S.W.2d 895, 902 (Mo. banc 1987); State v. Gilmore, 681 S.W.2d 934, 940 (Mo. banc 1984); State v. Keeble, 399 S.W.2d 118, 122 (Mo. 1966).


[10] 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).


[11] Hermel, supra; Cupples-Hesse Corporation v. State Tax Commission, 329 S.W.2d 696, 702 (Mo. 1959).


[12] Northtown Village v. Don Davis, Assessor, Jasper County. Mo., Appeal Nos. 03-62558 (May 27, 2004) providing that the definitions in Section 137.016 (2000) illustrate that “the classification turns on the actual use put to the property.”


[13] Dickerson v. Curtis Koons, Assessor, Cass County, Mo. Appeal Number 01-49004 (June 11, 2002); Ernest W. Giddens, Trustee v. Rick Kessinger, Assessor, Greene County, Mo., Appeal No. 05-33000 (Commission Decision April 19, 2007).


[14] Section 138.430.2, RSMo.


[15] 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).


[16] 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).


[17] 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).


[18] 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).


[19] Carmel Energy at 783.


[20] See, Rossman v. G.G.C. Corp. Of Missouri, 596 S.W.2d 469, 471 (Mo. App. 1980).


[21] Koplar v. State Tax Commission, 321 S.W.2d 686, 690, 695 (Mo. 1959).


[22] State ex rel. Plantz v. State Tax Commission, 384 S.W.2d 565, 568 (Mo. 1964).


[23] Savage v. State Tax Commission of Missouri, 722 S.W.2d 72, 79 (Mo. banc 1986).


[24] Cupples-Hesse Corporation v. State Tax Commission, 329 S.W.2d 696 (Mo. 1958).


[25] Section 138.432, RSMo 2000.