STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|TOBEY & DEBORAH SIMPSON,||)|
|v.||)||Appeal No. 17-62544|
|Parcel/Locator No. 08-4.0-17-000-000-.005.000|
|CONNIE HOOVER, ASSESSOR,||)|
|JASPER COUNTY, MISSOURI,
DECISION AND ORDER
The 2017 assessment of the subject property is AFFIRMED. Tobey and Deborah Simpson (Complainants) did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment.
Deborah Simpson (Complainant) appeared pro se. Tobey Simpson appeared not.
Connie Hoover, Assessor, Jasper County, Missouri, (Respondent) appeared in person and by counsel Norman Rouse.
Case heard and decided by Chief Counsel Maureen Monaghan (Hearing Officer).
Complainants appealed on the ground of “exemption”; Complainants contend that the improvements on their property are newly constructed residential property that has never been occupied and therefore should not be assessed as improved property pursuant to Section 137.082 RSMo. Respondent set the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property at $157,850 ($12,210 land TVM, $145,640 improvement TVM), as residential property, as of January 1, 2017. The State Tax Commission (STC) takes this appeal to determine the application of Section 137.082 RSMo.
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 issues were presented at an evidentiary hearing on March 8, 2018, at the Jasper County Courthouse, Carthage, Missouri.
- Identification of Subject Property. The subject property is identified by parcel/locator number 08-4.0-17-000-000-.005.000. It is further identified as 21540 Millwood Rd, Neck City, Jasper County, Missouri.
- Description of Subject Property. The subject property consists of 1.06 acres, improved by a 2,100 square-foot, single-family home. The structure is wood sided, has a two car garage, roof, and completely contained. It has electric and water service as well as air conditioning and heat.
- Assessment. Respondent set a TVM for the subject property of $157,850 ($12,210 land TVM, $145,640 improvement TVM), residential classification, as of January 1, 2017. Jasper County is an “occupancy county”, meaning the County has adopted the provisions in Section 137.082 RSMo. The statute provides that a county will not assess residential property as improved real property until the improvement is occupied. An “occupancy county” may assess newly constructed and occupied residential property and tax on such assessed valuation as of the first date of the month following the date of occupancy for the proportionate part of the remaining year.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant opined that the subject property’s TVM as of January 1, 2017, was $12,200 as the property was not occupied. To support Complainant’s opinion of value, Complainant offered as evidence the following exhibits:
|Exhibit A||Letter authored by Complainant’s mother, Wanda Lewis|
|Exhibit B||2017 Personal Property Statement (mailed to P.O. Box 100, Neck City, Missouri) and Real Estate Statement (mailed to 291 Shady Drive, Branson, Missouri)|
|Exhibit C||Email from Missouri Department of Natural Resources to Complainants regarding their property and its prior use as a gas station dated March 30, 2010.|
|Exhibit D||Bid for removal of buildings on the property except for the white house dated February 9, 2010|
|Exhibit E||Photographs of the property from 2010|
|Exhibit F||Photographs purported to be 2017-2018|
Respondent objected to Complainant’s exhibits A and F. Exhibit A was not admitted into evidence on the grounds of hearsay. Exhibit F photographs were admitted into evidence and given appropriate weight.
Complainant testified that the property had been in the family for an extensive period of time. Her grandparents operated several businesses in the location including a gas station and general store. The commercial businesses have been closed for a significant period of years.
Complainant received the property and began removing the improvements on the property. Improvements included the original structure used as the store and gas station. Complainant described it as the “old white house.” The improvements also included the pumps and aboveground gas storage tanks, and two mobile homes. Those improvements were removed prior to 2017 assessment.
Complainant was residing in another county during the time that the old improvements were removed and the construction of the new improvement began. Eventually, she and her husband (Tobey Simpson) moved to Jasper County. She testified that she sold her home in Branson to her son in July of 2015 or 2016.
Complainant testified that she has spent approximately $50,000 to date to construct the residence. The exterior of the home is completed. She had photographs of the building materials including insulation, sheet rook, and wafer wood. The photographs show the installed door to the master bedroom, installed electrical fixtures, refrigerator, and kitchen.
Complainant testified that the Assessor requested permission to view the property and they refused to allow the Assessor or her staff admittance to the property to verify the property is unoccupied and they will never allow the Assessor to perform an interior inspection.
Complainant testified that the Assessor noted that their vehicles are parked at the subject property. Complainant testified that they leave their vehicles at the property to thwart drug activity occurring on their property and potential break-ins.
- Respondent’s Evidence. To support Respondent’s opinion of occupancy and assessment, Respondent offered as evidence the following exhibits:
|Exhibit 1||Property Record Card|
|Exhibit 2||Photograph of subject property May 11, 2017|
|Exhibit 3||Photograph of subject property March 4, 2016|
|Exhibit 4||Impact Notice 2017|
|Exhibit 5||Impact Notice 2017|
|Exhibit 6||Letter from Jasper County Clerk stating the Complainants registered to vote using the subject property’s address|
|Exhibit 7||2016 Personal Property Sheet|
|Exhibit 8||2017 Personal Property Sheet|
|Exhibit 9||Aerial photograph from March 11, 2015|
|Exhibit 10||Aerial photograph from February 15, 2018.|
Complainant did not object to Respondent’s exhibits, which were received into the record.
Lisa Perry (Perry) with Jasper County Assessor’s Office testified on behalf of Respondent. She testified as to Exhibits 1-10. Exhibits 2 and 3 are exterior photographs of the subject property from March 2016 to May 2017. The exterior looks substantially the same in the photographs. The exterior of the improvement appears to be completed as all siding, roofing, doors and garage are complete and the structure is not open to the elements.
Exhibits 4 and 5 address the impact notice mailed on the subject property. A notice was mailed to the Complainants at their Branson Address regarding the increase in value of the subject property for 2017. Perry testified that the Branson address was the address they had on file for the 2017 impact notices. Exhibit 6 is a letter from the Jasper County Clerk stating that the Complainants registered to vote on February 1, 2016 using the address 21450 Millwood Rd, P.O. Box 100, Neck City, Missouri (address of the subject property). Exhibits 7 and 8 are copies of Complainants’ 2016 and 2017 personal property declarations. The declarations, signed by Complainant, list the location of their personal property at the subject property’s address. The declarations were mailed to the subject property. Exhibits 9 and 10 are aerial photographs from the county’s fly-overs in 2015 and 2018. Both exhibits depict the subject property and in both photographs, the Complainant’s vehicles are parked at the subject property.
- Presumption of Correct Assessment Not Rebutted. Complainant did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND DECISION
The STC 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 BOE, 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.
Basis of Assessment
The Constitution mandates that real property and tangible personal property be 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. The constitutional mandate is to find the true value in money for the property under appeal. By statute, real property and tangible personal property are assessed at set percentages of true value in money: residential property at 19%; commercial property at 32%; and agricultural property at 12%. Section 137.115.5 RSMo (2000) as amended.
Investigation by Hearing Officer
In order to investigate appeals filed with the STC, 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 RSMo (2000) as amended. 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.
During the Evidentiary Hearing, the Hearing Officer inquired of Complainant.
Section 137.082, RSMo provides that any newly constructed and occupied residential improvement “shall be assessed and taxed on such assessed valuation as of the first day of the month following the date of occupancy for the proportionate part of the remaining year at the tax rates established for that year, in all taxing jurisdictions located in the county adopting this section.” “Newly constructed residential property which has never been occupied shall not be assessed as improved real property until such occupancy or the first day of January of the fourth year following the year in which construction of the improvements was completed.”
The statute provides that the assessor may consider the property occupied upon verification or when any two of the following conditions have been met:
(1) An occupancy permit has been issued for the property;
(2) A deed transferring ownership from one party to another has been filed with the recorder of deeds’ office subsequent to the date of the first permanent utility service;
(3) A utility company providing service in the county has verified a transfer of service for property from one party to another;
(4) The person or persons occupying the newly constructed property has registered a change of address with any local, state or federal governmental office or agency.”
Complainant’s Burden of Proof
A presumption exists that the assessed value fixed by the BOE is correct. Rinehart, 363 S.W.3d at 367; Cohen, 251 S.W.3d at 348; Hermel, Inc., 564 S.W.2d at 895. “Substantial and persuasive controverting evidence is required to rebut the presumption, with the burden of proof resting on the taxpayer.” Cohen, 251 S.W.3d at 348. Substantial evidence can be defined as such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Cupples Hesse Corp. v. State Tax Commission, 329 S.W.2d 696, 702 (Mo. 1959). Persuasive evidence is evidence that has sufficient weight and probative value to convince the trier of fact. Cupples Hesse Corp., 329 S.W.2d at 702. The persuasiveness of evidence does not depend on the quantity or amount thereof but on its effect in inducing belief. Brooks v. General Motors Assembly Division, 527 S.W.2d 50, 53 (Mo. App. 1975). See also, 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).
There is no presumption that the taxpayer’s opinion is correct. The taxpayer in a STC 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.” 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).
Generally, a property owner, while not an expert, is competent to testify to the reasonable market value of his own land. Cohen, 251 S.W.3d at 348-49; Carmel Energy, Inc. v. Fritter, 827 S.W.2d 780, 783 (Mo. App. W.D. 1992). “However, when an owner’s opinion is based on improper elements or foundation, his opinion loses its probative value.” Carmel Energy, Inc., 827 S.W.2d at 783. 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. E.D. 1980).
Weight to be Given Evidence
The Hearing Officer is not bound by any single formula, rule, or method in determining true value in money and 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. 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 subject property, from the exterior, appears to be completed. The subject property has utilities including electric and water. The subject property has working interior light fixtures, heating, and cooling. Complainants have used the subject property’s address as their official voting and mailing address. Their vehicles are parked there at all times. Their personal property declarations list the subject parcel’s address as the situs of their vehicles.
Although the Complainant testified that they do not reside in the residence, Complainant refused to allow the Respondent to verify the construction. In the absence of permitting an interior inspection, a negative inference is drawn relative to any assertion that the overall condition of the subject would be other than completed and occupied as concluded by the Respondent.
The TVM for the subject property is AFFIRMED. The assessed value for the subject property for tax years 2017-2018 is set at $29,990 residential.
Application for Review
A party may file with the STC 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 Jasper 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 27, 2018.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been sent electronically or mailed postage prepaid this 27th day of March, 2018, to: Complainants(s) counsel and/or Complainant, the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.