STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Sanford Gubernik (Complainant) appeals valuation of the subject property determined by Jake Zimmerman, Assessor, St. Louis County, Missouri, (Respondent). Complainant did not appeal to the St. Louis County Board of Equalization (BOE), but appealed directly to the State Tax Commission (STC) after receiving first notification of the valuation upon receiving the 2019 tax bill. Respondent placed an assessed value as of January 1, 2019, of $5,280 for Complainant’s 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Complainant claims overvaluation and did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing overvaluation. Respondent presented substantial and persuasive evidence to establish the true value in money of the subject property as of January 1, 2019. The parties waived their opportunity for an evidentiary hearing and agreed to submit the appeals on the record.² Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent was represented by counsel, Steven Robson.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Subject Property. The subject property is a 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser.
- Respondent and BOE. Respondent determined the personal property trade-in value of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $15,850, with an assessed value of $5,280 for the 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser using the October 1, 2018 issue of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association Official Used Car Guide pursuant to Section 137.115.9. There was no BOE decision regarding the property.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant submitted the Complaint for Review of Assessment to the STC with Exhibit A attached, the 2019 property tax bill. Complainant did not propose an opinion of the true value in money (TVM) of the 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Complainant submitted the following exhibits:
|B||Email Narrative from Complainant||Admitted|
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent submitted Exhibits 1 and 2 and the written direct testimony (WDT) of Suzanne Strain, Personal Property Appraiser, which are admitted into evidence. Ms. Strain has been an appraiser for St Louis County since 2013. Exhibits 1 and 2 are NADA reports for the 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Respondent’s WDT concluded that based on the exhibits, the TVM as of January 1, 2019, was $15,850, with an assessed value of $5,280 for the 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser.
- Value. Respondent’s evidence was substantial and persuasive to establish the TVM of the subject vehicle on January 1, 2019.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
- Assessment and Valuation
Pursuant to Article X, Sections 4(a) and 4(b), Mo. Const. of 1945 real property and tangible personal property is 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. Personal property is assessed at 33.33% of its TVM as of January 1 of each year. Section 137.115.5. Pursuant to Section 137.115.9 “[t]he assessor of each county and each city not within a county shall use the trade-in value published in the October issue of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association Official Used Car Guide, or its successor publication, as the recommended guide of information for determining the true value of the motor vehicles described in such publication. The assessor shall not use a value that is greater than the average trade-in value in determining the true value of the vehicle without performing a physical inspection of the motor vehicle. …” “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).
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). “It is within the purview of the hearing officer to determine the method of valuation to be adopted in a given case.” Tibbs v. Poplar Bluff Assocs. I, L.P., 599 S.W.3d 1, 9 (Mo. App. S.D. 2020). 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. 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. Id.
- Complainant’s Burden of Proof
The Complainant bears the burden of proving the vital elements of the case, i.e., the assessment was “unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary or capricious.” Westwood Partnership, 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. W.D. 1991). The taxpayer’s evidence must be both “substantial and persuasive.” 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, 77 S.W.3d at 651; 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”). A taxpayer does not meet his burden if evidence on any essential element of his case leaves the STC “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).
- Complainant Did Not Prove Overvaluation.
Complainant’s Exhibit B, an email narrative, argues that the trade-in value utilized by Respondent is a 15-20% overvaluation because of market conditions. Complainant proposed no true value in money or assessed value for the subject property in any of the exhibits. Complainant produced no evidence showing the market value of the subject property as derived from trade-in values, comparable sales of 2011 Toyota FJ Cruisers, or any other valuation method. Complainant did not produce persuasive evidence of value of the subject property in order to prove overvaluation.
Respondent’s witness, Ms. Strain, credibly testified in her WDT that the vehicle was valued utilizing the average trade-in value of the vehicle published in the October 2018 issue of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA) Official Used Car Guide as required by statute. (See WDT and Exhibits 1 and 2). The vehicle’s TVM was adjusted for mileage. (See Exhibits 1 and 2). Exhibit 2, the October 2018 NADA report, showed that the average trade-in value for a 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser was $16,425. Ms. Strain credibly testified in her WDT that the Assessor’s valuation of $15,850 should be affirmed and she was not advocating for any higher valuation. (See Exhibit 1). Respondent’s evidence established that the vehicle’s TVM was adjusted for mileage. Respondent presented substantial and persuasive evidence that the valuation for the vehicle is $15,850, with an assessed value of $5,280 for the 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The TVM for the 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser as of January 1, 2019, was $15,850 with an assessed value of $5,280.
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.
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, 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 June 18, 2021.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
ERICA M GAGE
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 June 18, 2021, to: Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
 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.
² Section 138.431.5 provides the “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 BOE, and correcting any assessment which is unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary, or capricious.”