ATTORNEYS FOR PETITIONER:
JAMES W. BEATTY
LANDMAN & BEATTY
ATTORNEYS FOR THE RESPONDENT:
ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA
LINDA I. VILLEGAS
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL
INDIANA TAX COURT
GOODHOST, LLC, )
v. ) Cause No. 49T10-9810-TA-131
DEPARTMENT OF LOCAL )
ON APPEAL FROM A FINAL DETERMINATION
OF THE STATE BOARD OF TAX COMMISSIONERS
April 17, 2003
Goodhost, LLC (Goodhost) appeals the final determination of the State Board of Tax
Commissioners (State Board) valuing its real property for the March 1, 1995 assessment.
The issue is whether the State Board correctly assessed Goodhosts land under
the Marion County Land Order (land order). For the reasons stated below,
the Court AFFIRMS the State Boards final determination.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Goodhost owns the American Inn at 82nd Street and I-69 in Marion County,
Indiana. The property consists of nineteen, two-story units located on approximately ten
acres that are zoned DP. Goodhost rents eighty percent of the units
as low-income apartment housing. Most of Goodhosts tenants do not sign leases,
electing instead to pay rent on a weekly or monthly basis. However,
a few tenants have signed long-term leases for the apartment housing.
For the 1995 assessment, Goodhost contends that its land was assessed as hotel/motel
land at $2.50 per square foot. (Petr Br. at 1.) Goodhost
appealed its assessment to the Marion County Board of Review (BOR), which affirmed
Goodhosts assessment. Goodhost then appealed to the State Board, arguing that because
the American Inn was used as apartment housing, its land should have been
assessed as apartment land. (See Petr Br. at 2; Oral Argument Tr.
at 68, 2930.) The State Board held a hearing. It issued
a final determination on September 14, 1998, denying Goodhost any relief.
On October 23, 1998, Goodhost initiated an original tax appeal. On January
28, 2000, the Court held a trial. The parties presented oral argument
on June 28, 2000. Additional facts will be supplied as needed.
ANALYSIS AND OPINION
Standard of Review
This Court gives great deference to the final determinations of the State Board
when it acts within the scope of its authority. Blackbird Farms Apartments,
LP v. Dept of Local Govt Fin., 765 N.E.2d 711, 713 (Ind. Tax
Ct. 2002). This Court will reverse a final determination of the State
Board only when it is unsupported by substantial evidence, arbitrary, capricious, constitutes an
abuse of discretion, or exceeds statutory authority. Id.
Furthermore, a taxpayer who appeals to this Court from a State Board final
determination bears the burden of showing that the final determination was invalid.
Id. The taxpayer must present a prima facie case by submitting probative evidence,
i.e., evidence sufficient to establish a given fact that, if not contradicted, will
remain sufficient. Id. Once the taxpayer presents a prima facie case,
the burden shifts to the State Board to rebut the taxpayers evidence and
support its findings with substantial evidence. Id.
The sole issue is whether the State Board correctly assessed Goodhosts land under
the land order. Goodhost argues that under the land order, its land
should have been assessed as apartment land, not hotel/motel land. (See Petr
Br. at 2; Oral Argument Tr. at 68, 29.)
Under Indianas true tax value system, commercial, residential, and industrial land values are
compiled into a land order. See Ind. Code § 6-1.1-4-13.6 (Supp. 2002);
Blackbird Farms, 765 N.E.2d at 71314. The land values are typically expressed
in ranges of base rates that assessing officials apply to various geographic areas,
subdivisions, or neighborhoods based on their distinguishing characteristics or boundaries. Ind. Admin.
Code tit. 50, r. 2.2-4-4(c) (1996) (repealed 1998).
To challenge the base rate applied to its land, a taxpayer must present
probative evidence showing that either (1) comparable properties were assessed and taxed differently
than its own under the land order or (2) its land was improperly
assessed under the wrong section of the land order. See Park Steckley
I v. Dept of Local Govt Fin., 779 N.E.2d 1270, 1273 (Ind. Tax
Ct. 2002); Blackbird Farms, 765 N.E.2d at 714. Accordingly, when a taxpayer
challenges its assessment under a land order, it is essential for the Court
to have an opportunity to read and analyze the relevant portion of the
applicable land order. In particular, the Court must be able to evaluate
the application of the land order to the taxpayers property or comparable propertiesor
bothso that it may determine if a remedy is warranted and, if so,
its nature and extent. See Blackbird Farms, 765 N.E.2d at 711 n.4.
See also Eastgate Pship v. Dept of Local Govt Fin., 780 N.E.2d 435,
43839 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2002) (evaluating different portions of a disputed land order);
Park Steckley, 779 N.E.2d at 1273 (same).
Goodhost, having the burden of proof in this case, has not provided the
Court with a copy of the land order that is the subject of
its appeal. (See Oral Argument Tr. at 32.) This Court does
not have its own copies of land orders, nor is it able to
infer what may or may not be in the land order. See
Davidson Indus. v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 744 N.E.2d 1067, 1071 (Ind.
Tax Ct. 2001) (stating that the Court will not make a partys case
for it). Consequently, without the opportunity to read and evaluate the land
order, this Court is unable to reach the merits of Goodhosts claim.
Thus, Goodhost has not made a prima facie case.
For the aforementioned reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the State Boards final determination.
Footnote: The State Board of Tax Commissioners (State Board) was originally the Respondent
in this appeal. However, the Legislature abolished the State Board as of December
31, 2001. 2001 Ind. Acts 198 § 119(b)(2). Effective January 1,
2002, the Legislature created the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) and the
Indiana Board of Tax Review (Indiana Board).
Ind. Code §§ 6-1.1-30-1.1; 6-1.5-1-3
(West Supp. 2001); 2001 Ind. Acts 198 §§ 66, 95. Pursuant to
Indiana Code § 6-1.5-5-8, the DLGF is substituted for the State Board in
appeals from final determinations of the State Board that were issued before January
1, 2002. Ind. Code § 6-1.5-5-8 (West Supp. 2001) (eff. 2002); 2001
Ind. Acts 198 § 95. Nevertheless, the law in effect prior to
January 1, 2002 applies to these appeals. I.C. § 6-1.5-5-8. See
also 2001 Ind. Acts 198 § 117. Although the DLGF has been
substituted as the Respondent, this Court will still reference the State Board throughout
Goodhost submitted evidence of nearby properties that it claims are (1) comparable
to its own and (2) classified as apartment land under the land order.
arguendo that the properties are comparable to Goodhosts, this Court cannot
determine whether the same portion of the land order that applies to Goodhosts
land also applies to these properties without reading the land order. See
Blackbird Farms Apartments, LP v. Dept of Local Govt Fin., 765 N.E.2d 711,
711 n.4 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2002). This Court cannot verify whether there
are, in fact, different sections of the land order for hotel/motel land and
apartment land. Furthermore, the fact that Goodhosts putative comparables are only a
short distance from its own land is of no moment. Properties that
are literally across the street from each other can receive different assessments under
a land order. See, e.g., Park Steckley I v. Dept of Local
Govt Fin., 779 N.E.2d 1270, 1274 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2002). Thus, mere
proximity does not give rise to a reasonable inference that different properties were
assessed under the same portion of a land order.