STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|SEID HUSKIC,||)||Appeal No. 21-10105|
|)||Parcel No. 25J622800|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Seid Huskic (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, 2021, was $297,000. Complainant alleges overvaluation and claims that the TVM as of that date was $240,000. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence of overvaluation. The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $297,000.
The evidentiary hearing was held on July 21, 2022, via Webex. Complainant appeared pro se via telephone. Respondent Jake Zimmerman, Assessor, St. Louis County, Missouri, was represented by counsel, Tim Bowe. The case was heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer Benjamin C. Slawson.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- The Subject Property. The subject property is residential real property located at 5300 Vine Ave., St. Louis, Missouri. The property includes a single family two-story home with a siding exterior. The house was built around 2004 or 2005 and has about 1,900 square feet of living space. The house has three bedrooms, two and half baths, and a two-car garage. Complainant has not made any significant improvements in the last years other than removing the carpet and installing laminate flooring. Complainant has not listed the property for sale in the last three years.
- Assessment and Valuation. Respondent classified the subject property as residential and determined the TVM on January 1, 2021, was $297,000. The BOE also determined the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $297,000.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant introduced Exhibit A which was admitted without objection. Exhibit A consists of 23 photographs of the subject property. Complainant testified that his opinion of value as of January 1, 2021, for the subject property is $240,000. When asked how Complainant arrived at this figure, Complainant stated that he just estimated the value to be that amount when he was outraged at receiving an appraised amount of $297,000 by Respondent and the BOE.
Complainant testified in detail regarding his financial situation and his frustration with the government as a hard-working citizen. Complainant identified himself as an immigrant who obtained his United States citizenship in the 1990s as a Bosnian refugee. He stressed that he believes that the amount of the tax increase on the subject property is exorbitant. Complainant stressed that he is a hard-working man trying to take care of his family and feels like the government is wasting the tax dollars received. Complainant stated that during this recent financial downturn he has not received a raise at his job and is barely making ends meet. Complainant stated he is very upset that money is being sent overseas to Ukraine and elsewhere when people in Saint Louis are hurting and need help.
Complainant also testified that he believes that the BOE overvalued his property due to the fact that his house is showing some wear with age. Complainant highlighted some of the condition issues with the house. As evidenced in Exhibit A, Complainant testified as to the many repairs and maintenance that he believes devalue the property. First, Complainant stated that several windows need to be replaced due to their age and the fact that there are gaps that make it difficult to cool the house in the summer and heat it in the winter. Condensation also builds up on the glass due to the faulty seals. In addition, the concrete in between the driveway and garage floor has settled causing a few inch difference in elevation. Because of this, Complainant is not currently parking his vehicles in the garage. There are also cracks in other concrete fixtures around the house. Last, Complainant described that there are several nails that are popping out of the internal studs within the house. This is evident in several of the pictures contained in Exhibit A. Complainant has not yet obtained any specific bids to fix these issues. Complainant testified that he is not a licensed appraiser.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent introduced Exhibit 1, the BOE’s October 29, 2021, Decision Letter. Complainant did not object. Respondent’s Exhibit 1 was admitted into evidence.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $297,000.
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. 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). The TVM is “the fair market value of the property on the valuation date[.]” 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). “True value in money is defined in terms of value in exchange not value in use.” Tibbs v. Poplar Bluff Assocs. I, L.P., 599 S.W.3d 1, 7 (Mo. App. S.D. 2020) (internal quotation omitted). “Determining the true value in money is an issue of fact for the STC.” Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 348 (Mo. App. E.D. 2008).
“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. The STC has wide discretion in selecting the appropriate valuation method but “cannot base its decision on opinion evidence that fails to consider information that should have been considered under a particular valuation approach.” Id., at 348.
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. For this reason, the comparable sales approach is typically used to value residential property. “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. “Although technical rules of evidence are not controlling in administrative hearings, fundamental rules of evidence are applicable.” Mo. Church of Scientology v. State Tax Comm’n, 560 S.W.2d 837, 839 (Mo. banc 1977). 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). “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 taxpayer bears the burden of proof and must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property was overvalued. Westwood P’ship v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152, 161 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003). The BOE’s valuation is presumptively correct. Tibbs, 599 S.W.3d at 7. The “taxpayer may rebut this presumption by presenting substantial and persuasive evidence that the valuation is erroneous.” Id. (internal quotation omitted). The taxpayer also 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 v. State Tax Comm’n, 722 S.W.2d 72, 77 (Mo. banc 1986) (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 Produce Substantial and Persuasive Evidence of Overvaluation.
Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence to support his opinion of value of $240,000 for the subject property as of January 1, 2021.
Complainant did not produce any evidence supporting a comparable sales approach, income approach, or cost approach. There is no evidence of a recent sale of the subject property supporting Complainant’s proposed value. Complainant introduced no evidence pertaining to a recognized valuation method.
The comparable sales approach is typically used to value residential properties improved with a single-family home. “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.” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 347-48 (internal quotation omitted).
Complainant persuasively testified the property taxes on the subject property are becoming increasingly difficult for him to afford due to financial hardship. However, the undersigned hearing officer is bound by the General Assembly’s directive to review the assessment to determine “the correct valuation to be placed on such property” and to “correct any assessment or valuation which is shown to be unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary or capricious.” Section 138.430.1. As established, the benchmark for assessments is the property’s TVM, or fair market value as of January 1, 2021. Sections 137.115.1; 137.115.5(1)(a). A property’s fair market value does not vary according to the owner’s ability to pay the taxes. Consequently, for purposes of this STC appeal, Complainant’s ability to afford property taxes is not a basis for concluding the subject is overvalued. Similarly, Complainant’s policy arguments considering the government and the spending of tax dollars by St. Louis County cannot be considered.
Complainant also testified that he believes that the BOE overvalued his property due to the fact that his house is showing some wear with age and the house is in need of repairs. However, Complainant neither demonstrated that the BOE’s valuation fails to take into account these issues, nor did Complainant provide proof of the specific monetary impact that these condition issues 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 $240,000 as of January 1, 2021. While a property owner’s opinion of value is generally admissible, the opinion lacks “probative value where it is shown to have been based upon improper elements or an improper foundation.” Shelby Cty. R-IV Sch. Dist. v. Herman, 392 S.W.2d 609, 613 (Mo. 1965); see also Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 349 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008) (noting a property owner’s opinion of value loses probative value when it rests on an improper foundation).
Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence showing that the subject property was overvalued. Therefore, Complainant’s evidence does not provide the necessary foundation and elements to support his overvaluation claim. Because the STC “cannot base its decision on opinion evidence that fails to consider information that should have been considered” under a recognized approach to value, Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 348, the BOE decision is affirmed.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $297,000.
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 October 21, 2022.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Benjamin C. Slawson
Senior Hearing Officer
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been electronically mailed and/or sent by U.S. Mail on October 21, 2022, 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, sec. 14; Section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000. All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.