State Tax Commission of Missouri
|THOMAS HANNA REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST||)|
|v.||)||Appeal # 15-10089|
|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. Complainants did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the St. Louis County Board of Equalization. Nevertheless, 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 year 2015 is set at $137,750 residential ($725,000 TMV).
Complainant appeared by attorney Thomas Hanna.
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 $749,300. The St. Louis County Board of Equalization sustained such valuation. 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 February 5, 2016 at the St. Louis Administrative Building in Clayton, Missouri.
- Identification of Subject Property. The subject property is identified by parcel/locator number 20Q340120. It is further identified as 1111 Chatsworth Place Drive, Town and Country, MO. (Exhibit 1).
- Description of Subject Property. The subject property consists of a 44,867 square foot tract of land improved by a single family, residential 2-story style home. Amenities include five bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, a three car attached garage, a screened porch and a fireplace. (Ex. 1)
- Assessment. The Assessor set a true market value on the subject property at $749,300 residential.
- Board of Equalization. The Board of Equalization sustained the true market value of the property.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant Thomas Hanna offered Exhibit A. An objection was made as to such exhibit to the extent Complainant is not an expert. The objection was overruled and the exhibit was received into the record to be given such weight, if any, as deemed appropriate. Complainant proposed a true market value of $639,300.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent offered into evidence Exhibits 1 & 2, which consisted of an Appraisal Report of Sharon Kuelker (Ex. 1) and an Addendum to such Appraisal Report (Ex. 2). The appraiser opined a true market value for the subject property, as of January 1, 2015 of $725,000. Such exhibits were received into the record without objection other than Complainant disagreeing with the appraiser’s conclusions.
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).
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).
Board Presumption and Computer-Assisted Presumption
There exists a presumption of correct assessment by the Board of Equalization. In charter counties or the City of St. Louis, 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. In the present appeal, the Board of Equalization sustained the valuation of the Assessor. Moreover, Respondent advocated a value less than the Board of Equalization value. Consequently, for two separate and independent reasons, the computer-assisted presumption does not come into play in the present appeal.
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).
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); Scanlon v. Kansas City, 28 S.W. 2d 84, 95 (Mo. 1930).
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. Complainant pointed to several issues about how the subject property compares to other properties in the subject property’s neighborhood and how such properties are assessed. Complainant also raised questions about the comparables selected by the Assessor under the mass appraisal process, during the initial assessment period for 2015. Neither of such constitute evidence as to the true market value of the subject property on January 1, 2015. Many of Complainant’s concerns pose more of a discrimination type claim. However, Complainant did not appeal on this point. Notwithstanding such fact, Complainant did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to be successful on such type claim. To be successful, Complainant had to: (1) prove the true value in money of their property on January 1, 2015; 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. Complainant did not prove discrimination.
Conversely, Respondent presented substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the St. Louis County Board of Equalization.. Respondent’s appraiser considered three different approaches to value the subject property. She ultimately utilized by the sales comparison approach to value the property as she found the sales comparison approach to be the most reliable. She selected three comparable sales. She made market based adjustment to such comparables.
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 $137,750 residential ($725,000 True Market Value).
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 March 8th, 2016.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
John J. Treu
Senior Hearing Officer
Delivery or Notice was made via mail, email, fax, or personally on March 8, 2016 to the following Individuals of this Order