Proceed With Caution, Part XIV: New Indiana Board Rulings Apply The Modified Burden Of Proof Statute For Property Tax Appeals

by Faegre Baker Daniels

With multiple years at issue, the Indiana Board determined the burden of proof for the second year after ruling on the merits for the first year at issue.

Earlier this year, I reported on the enhancement of Indiana’s burden of proof statute, which became effective March 25, 2014.  Generally, the Assessor has the burden of proof on appeal if the challenged assessment is more than 5% over the same property’s finally determined assessment for the prior year.  See Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-17.2.  The Indiana Board has now applied those changes in cases where taxpayers have multiple years under appeal for the same parcel.  In MHP Investor 1 Ltd. V. Ripley County Assessor, Pet. Nos. 69-004-11-1-4-00001 and 69-004-12-1-4-00001 (June 9, 2014), Taxpayer challenged the 2011 and 2012 assessments of its 131-lot mobile home park.  The property’s 2010 assessment was $1,129,900.  The 2011 and 2012 assessments under appeal to the Board (as assigned by the County Board or PTABOA) were $1,209,100.  The parties had agreed that Taxpayer had the burden of proof for both years.  That was incorrect, the Board concluded.  Taxpayer had the burden of proof to show that the property’s 2011 value was lower than its 2010 value.  But the “burden of proof for 2012 depends on the outcome of the 2011 appeal,” the Board observed.  (Page 4, ¶ 14.)

Taxpayer submitted a USPAP compliant appraisal, as well as the appraiser’s testimony, concluding to a value of $650,000 for both years.  The appraisal was “substantial, probative evidence” of the property’s value.  (Page 10, ¶ 37.)  The Assessor attempted to impeach the appraisal by pointing to the property’s 2006 sales disclosure form and applying the median sale price of the five comparable properties used in the appraisal.  The Assessor’s efforts fell short, with the Board noting that “assessing officials should defend their assessment decisions with their own evidence at the Indiana Board hearing, even if they think a taxpayer has failed to make a prima facie case.”  (Page 12, ¶ 46) (quotation omitted).  Based on Taxpayer’s evidence, the property’s 2011 value was reduced to $650,000.  The Indiana Board then ruled that the Assessor had the burden of proof for 2012, “because the assessment increased from $650,000 in 2011 to $1,209,900 in 2012” – an increase far above 5%.

The Indiana Board reached the same conclusion in two May decisions.  See Randall Neely, LLC v. Lake County Assessor, Pet. Nos. 45-023-09-1-4-00005 and 45-023-10-1-4-00009 ¶¶ 18-19 (May 8, 2014) (where Taxpayer prevailed on its 2009 appeal, Board used the reduced value to apply the burden-shifting rule to the 2010 appeal); Ellis v. Greene County Assessor, Pet. No. 28-01-07-000-010.001-001 ¶ 18 (May 14, 2014) (“The determination for a reduction for the 2011 assessment means that for 2012 the [Assessor] has the burden to prove the PTABOA’s valuation.”).

Additional Procedural Note.  The Assessor in MHP Investor 1 Ltd. V had revised the County Board’s determination after Taxpayer had filed its appeals to the Indiana Board of Tax Review.  However, the Assessor “lacks the authority to unilaterally disturb a determination” of the County Board.  (Page 3, ¶ 9 n.1.)

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