State Tax Commission of Missouri
|v.||)||Appeal # 15-13729|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR||)|
|ST. LOUIS CO., MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
The assessment made by the Board of Equalization of St. Louis County is SET ASIDE. Complainant did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the St. Louis County Board of Equalization. However, Respondent presented substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the St. Louis County Board of Equalization Assessed value in money for the subject property for tax years 2015 and 2016 is set at $38,000 residential ($200,000 TMV).
Complainant Steven Vires appeared pro se.
Respondent appeared by attorney Steven Robson.
Case heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer John Treu.
Complainant appealed on the ground of overvaluation. The St. Louis County Assessor set the TMV of the subject property, as residential property, at $206,200. The St. Louis County Board of Equalization set the TMV of the subject property, as residential property, at $206,200. The Commission takes this appeal to determine the true value in money of the subject property on January 1, 2015.
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.
- Evidentiary Hearing. The Evidentiary Hearing was held on May 24, 2016 at the St. Louis Administrative Building in Clayton, Missouri.
- Identification of Subject Property. The subject property is identified by parcel/locator number 29L140353. It is further identified as 5163 Olde Silver Place, St. Louis, MO. (Exhibit 1).
- Description of Subject Property. The subject property consists of a tract of land of 11,566 square feet, improved by a single family, 2-story home with 2,368 square feet of gross living area. It has a vinyl and brick exterior. Amenities include four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a two car attached garage, a fireplace, a patio and a deck. (Ex. 1)
- Assessment. The Assessor set a true market value on the subject property at $206,200 residential.
- Board of Equalization. The Board of Equalization set a true market value on the subject property at $206,200 residential.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant offered Exhibit A through H as follows:
|Exhibit A||Complaint for Review of Assessment|
|Exhibit B||St. Louis County Document Re: Subject|
|Exhibit C||St. Louis County Document Re: 5155 Olde Silver Place (Not Subject)|
|Exhibit D||Appraisal on 5155 Olde Silver Place (Not Subject)|
|Exhibit E||Vires Statement and Analysis|
|Exhibit F||Change of Assessment Notice in 2013 Re: Subject|
|Exhibit G||Order Approving Stipulation in 2011 Appeal Re: Subject|
|Exhibit H||Stipulation on Subject Property Re: 2011 Tax Year|
Exhibit A, B, F, G and H were received into the evidentiary record without objection. Exhibits C, D & E were objected to, but such were overruled and Exhibits C, D & E were received into the evidentiary record. Complainant proposed a true market value of $179,000.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent offered into evidence Exhibits 1, 2 & 3. Exhibit 1 consisted of the Qualifications of Nancy McGrath. Exhibit 2 consisted of an Appraisal Report of Nancy McGrath. Exhibit 3 consisted of the Written Direct Testimony of Nancy McGrath. The appraiser opined a true market value for the subject property, as of January 1, 2015 of $200,000. Such exhibit were received into the evidentiary record without objection.
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, including the application of any abatement. 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.
Complainants’ Burden of Proof
In order to prevail, Complainants must present substantial and persuasive evidence as to the proper taxation of the subject property on January 1, 2015. 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). The taxpayer must also prove by substantial and persuasive evidence the true market value of the property which is the subject of the appeal.
Weight to be Given Evidence
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 is not bound by any specific method.
Owner’s Opinion of Value
Although an owner is competent to testify regarding the appropriate valuation of the owner’s property, “[w]here 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 the present appeal, Complainant’s evidence as to the true market was neither substantial nor persuasive. Complainant’s evidence regarding other properties and their valuations does not prove the value of the subject property. Complainant utilized St. Louis County records of the Assessor, regarding other properties in an attempt to prove the proper value of the subject property. However, the underlying premise of Complainant’s argument is that the Assessor was correct in valuing all other properties he submitted documentation on. This argument is not persuasive that the subject property was improperly valued nor does it establish the properties true market value as of January 1, 2015.
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
Opinion Testimony by Experts
An expert’s opinion must be founded upon substantial information, not mere conjecture or speculation, and there must be a rational basis for the opinion. Missouri Pipeline Co. v. Wilmes, 898 S.W. 2d 682, 687 (Mo. App. E.D. 1995). The State Tax Commission cannot ignore a lack of support in the evidence for adjustments made by the expert witnesses in the application of a particular valuation approach. Drey v. State Tax Commission, 345 S.W. 2d 228, 234-236 (Mo. 1961), Snider v. Casino Aztar/Aztar Missouri Gaming Corp., 156 S.W. 3d, 341, 348 (Mo. 2005).
The testimony of an expert is to be considered like any other testimony, is to be tried by the same test, and receives just so much weight and credit as the trier of fact may deem it entitled to when viewed in connection with all other circumstances. The Hearing Officer, as the trier of fact, has the authority to weigh the evidence and 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 may accept it in part or reject it in part. Beardsley v. Beardsley, 819 S.W. 2d 400, 403 (Mo. App. 1991); Curnow v. Sloan, 625 S.W. 2d 605, 607 (Mo. 1981.
Board Presumption and Computer-Assisted Presumption
There exists a presumption of correct assessment by the Board of Equalization. There exists by statutory mandate a presumption that the Assessor’s original valuation was made by a computer, computer-assisted method or a computer program – the computer-assisted presumption. These two presumptions operate with regard to the parties in different ways. The Board presumption operates in every case to require the taxpayer to present evidence to rebut it. If Respondent is seeking to prove a value different than that set by the Board, then it also would be applicable to the Respondent. The computer-assisted presumption only comes into play if the Board of Equalization lowered the value of the Assessor and Respondent is seeking to sustain the original assessment and it has not been shown that the Assessor’s valuation was not the result of a computer assisted method. The Board valuation is assumed to be an independent valuation.
Respondent’s Burden of Proof
In charter counties or the City of St. Louis, the Respondent, when wishing to advocate for a valuation to return the valuation to the Assessor’s original valuation, which was higher than the value assigned by the Board of Equalization, has imposed upon him by the provisions of Section 137.115.1, RSMo, the burden of proof to present clear, convincing and cogent evidence to sustain a valuation on residential property which is made by a computer, computer-assisted method or a computer program. If the Board of Equalization sustained the valuation of the Assessor, the computer assisted presumption does not come into play, as the Boards valuation, is an independent valuation.
In the present appeal, Respondent proposed a valuation of the subject property lower than the Board of Equalization value. Respondent’s Exhibit 2, an appraisal report, opined a true market value of the subject property of $200,000. Respondent’s appraiser developed an opinion of value relying upon an established and recognized approach for the valuation of real property, the sales comparison or market approach. The sales comparison approach is generally recognized to be the most reliable methodology to be utilized in the valuation of single-family residences. The adjustments made by the appraiser were, in general, consistent with generally accepted guidelines for the appraisal of property of the subject’s type. The adjustments accounted for the various differences between the subject and each comparable.
In the present appeal based upon overvaluation, Complainant failed to present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the St. Louis County Board of Equalization. However, Respondent presented substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption. The Hearing Officer would note that the search criteria for selecting comparables by Respondent’s appraiser could be questioned, in that, comparables selling closer to the applicable tax date and/or closer in proximity to the subject property could have been selected and adjustments made to such. (See Exhibit D, Page 2, Comparable Sales #1 and #3). However, the Hearing Officer would have to partake in speculation as to the adjustments Respondent’s appraiser would have made to such properties. Nevertheless, the Hearing Officer will not penalize Complainant by not affording him the benefit of the lower true market value opined by Respondent’s appraiser.
The true market valuation for the subject property as determined by the Assessor for St. Louis County for the subject tax day and sustained by the St. Louis County Board of Equalization is SET ASIDE.
The assessed value for the subject property for tax years 2015 and 2016 is set at at $38,000 residential ($200,000 TMV).
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 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 139.031.8, 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 July 11, 2016.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
John J. Treu
Senior Hearing Officer
Delivery or Notice was made via mail, email, fax, or personally on July 11, 2016 to the following Individuals of this Order