ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONER: ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT:
TIMOTHY J. VRANA STEVE CARTER
ATTORNEY AT LAW ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA
Columbus, IN Indianapolis, IN
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL
INDIANA TAX COURT
NORTH GROUP, INC., )
v. ) Cause No. 49T10-9812-TA-209
INDIANA STATE BOARD OF )
TAX COMMISSIONERS, )
ON APPEAL FROM FINAL DETERMINATIONS
OF THE STATE BOARD OF TAX COMMISSIONERS
April 9, 2001
North Group, Inc. (North Group) appeals the State Board of Tax Commissioners (State
Board) final determinations that assessed its seventeen parcels of property as of the
March 1, 1995 assessment date. North Group presents one issue for this
Courts review on appeal, which the Court restates as whether pursuant to Ind.
Code § 6-1.1-4-12 (West 2000) the land in question was properly assessed on
the basis of lots for the March 1, 1995 assessment date. For
the reasons stated below, the Court finds for the State Board.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Tipton Lakes Company, Inc. (Tipton) owned 8.24 acres of real estate located in
Harrison Township, Bartholomew County (subject property) that had been assessed on an acreage
basis. On August 13, 1992, North Group agreed to purchase the subject
property from Tipton. On October 21, 1992, Tipton platted the subject property
into lots as the Pintail Point Subdivision. Tipton granted a warranty deed
for the platted subject property to North Group on August 11, 1993.
For the tax year 1995, the Harrison Township Assessor reassessed the subject property
on the basis of lots. North Group disagreed with the assessments of
its property on the basis of lots and appealed to the Bartholomew County
Board of Review (BOR) via 130 Petitions for Review. The BOR denied
North Groups appeal. Thereafter, North Group filed 131 Petitions for Review of
Assessment (131 Petitions) and the State Board held a hearing on them on
April 17, 1998. On November 13, 1998, the State Board issued final
determinations on all seventeen of the challenged assessments. Its final determinations concluded
that the property was properly assessed on the basis of lots.
On December 21, 1998, North Group filed an original tax appeal in this
Court. A trial was held on June 14, 1999. Additional facts
will be provided as necessary.
ANALYSIS AND OPINION
Standard of Review
This Court gives final determinations of the State Board great deference when the
State Board acts within the scope of its authority. Freudenberg-NOK General Partnership
v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 715 N.E.2d 1026, 1028-29 (Ind. Tax Ct.
1999). Accordingly, this Court reverses final determinations of the State Board only
when they are unsupported by substantial evidence, are arbitrary or capricious, constitute an
abuse of discretion, or exceed statutory authority. Id. at 1029. In
addition, a taxpayer challenging the validity of the State Boards final determination bears
the burden of demonstrating the invalidity of the final determination. Clark v.
State Bd. of Tax Comm'rs, 694 N.E.2d 1230, 1233 (Ind. Tax Ct.
The issue is whether pursuant to I.C. § 6-1.1-4-12 the land in question
was properly assessed on the basis of lots for the March 1, 1995
assessment date. North Group argues that the property should be assessed on
an acreage basis for two reasons. First, North Group argues that it
received equitable title to the property when it agreed to purchase it on
August 13, 1992. (Petr Br. at 1.) Therefore, it asserts that
it owned the property before it was platted into parcels and that the
warranty deed that transferred bare legal title thereafter does not trigger the reassessment
of the property on the basis of lots. (Petr Br. at 2.)
Second, North Group contends that the purpose of Ind. Code Ann. §
6-1.1-4-12 is to give developers a break on taxes for lots that had
not been sold off to a third party. (Petr Br. at 2.)
It argues that because North Point is the developer it should receive
the developers discount provided by I.C. § 6-1.1-4-12. (Petr Br. at 2.)
It asserts that if it does not get the discount, the purpose
of the statute would be frustrated. The State Board argues that the
transfer of legal title after the parcels had been platted is a transaction
that triggers the reassessment of the property on the basis of lots.
(Respt Br. at 6.)
The statute at issue in this case, I.C. § 6-1.1-4-12, provides in relevant
part as follows:
If land assessed on an acreage basis is subdivided into lots, the land
shall be reassessed on the basis of lots. . . . An
assessment or reassessment made under this section is effective on the next assessment
date. However, if land assessed on an acreage basis is subdivided into
lots, the lots may not be reassessed until the next assessment date following
a transaction which results in a change in legal or equitable title to
(emphasis added). This Court has previously stated that [w]hen faced with a
question of statutory interpretation, this Court looks first to the plain language of
the statute. Where the language is unambiguous, this Court has no power
to construe the statute for the purpose of limiting or extending its operation."
Joyce Sportswear Co. v. State Bd. of Tax Comm'rs, 684 N.E.2d 1189,
1192 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1997) (original emphasis) (internal quotation marks omitted), review denied.
Assuming arguendo that equitable title passed to North Group when it agreed to
purchase the property, the Court addresses North Groups contention that because it had
equitable title to the property before it was platted, reassessment was not triggered.
The plain language of I.C. § 6-1.1-4-12 is unambiguous. The statute
requires that two events must occur before the land can be reassessed.
First, the land must be subdivided into lots. Second, the statute clearly
states that the land that has been subdivided into lots may be reassessed
on the next assessment date following a transaction which results in a change
in legal or equitable title. I.C. § 6-1.1-4-12 (emphasis added). Regardless
of any change in equitable title before the lots were platted, legal title
was transferred afterward. The facts of this case fit squarely within the
statute. The land was platted while Tipton held the legal title to
it. Thereafter, legal title was transferred to North Group. Consequently, the
assessing officials properly reassessed the subject property on March 1, 1995, on the
basis of lots pursuant to I.C. § 6-1.1-4-12.
Finally, the Court addresses North Groups assertion that the purpose of the statute
would be frustrated if its property is not assessed on an acreage basis
because it is the developer and should get the developers discount. (Petr
Br. at 2.) North Group does not support with any legal authority
its contention that the purpose of I.C. § 6-1.1-4-12 is to provide developers
with a discount. This Court will not make North Groups case for
it. See CGC Enters v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 714 N.E.2d
801, 803 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1999). Moreover, the language of this statute
is unambiguous and this Court has no power to construe it for the
purpose of extending its operation. See Joyce Sportswear Co., 684 N.E.2d at
North Group has not presented a prima facie case that it is entitled
to have its property assessed based on acreage. Therefore, the Court AFFIRMS
the State Boards final determination that North Groups property should be assessed on
the basis of lots.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby AFFIRMS the State Boards final determinations
that North Groups property should be assessed on the basis of lots, not
on an acreage basis.