PETITIONER APPEARING PRO SE:
KAREN M. FREEMAN-WILSON
Tell City, Indiana
ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA
TED J. HOLADAY
Deputy Attorney General
INDIANA TAX COURT
WRC COMPANY BY RANDALL )ON APPEAL FROM A FINAL DETERMINATION OF THE STATE BOARD OF TAX COMMISSIONERS
v. ) Cause No. 49T10-9809-TA-115
STATE BOARD OF TAX )
May 23, 2000
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
The petitioner, WRC
Company (WRC), appeals the final assessment determination of the State Board of Tax
Commissioners (State Board) for the 1995 tax year.
In its original
tax appeal, WRC raises two issues:
Whether the State Board applied an incorrect negative influence factor on its land
for the 1995 tax year.
Whether the State Board erred when it did not classify WRCs building as
a kit building.
For the reasons explained below, the Court affirms the State Boards final assessment
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
WRCs property is located in Perry County, Indiana. On August 14, 1996,
WRC filed its Form 130 Petition for Review with the Perry County Board
of Review (BOR) for the 1995 tax year, in which WRC alleged that
an 80% negative influence factor should be applied to its land instead of
25%, and that its building qualified as a kit building. On January
6, 1997, the BOR issued its final assessment determination, denying WRCs claims.
WRC then filed its Form 131 Petition for Review with the State Board
on February 5, 1997. On September 8, 1998, the State Board affirmed
the BOR in its final assessment determination. On September 28, 1998, WRC
filed this original tax appeal, after which a trial was held on February
24, 1999. Additional facts will be supplied where necessary.
ANALYSIS AND OPINION
Standard of Review
Board is given great deference when it acts within the scope of its
authority. See Barth, Inc. v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 699 N.E.2d
800, 801 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1998). Accordingly, this Court reverses State
Board final determinations only when those determinations are unsupported by substantial evidence, are
arbitrary or capricious, constitute an abuse of discretion, or exceed statutory authority.
See id. at 801-02.
1. Negative Influence Factor
WRC first argues that an 80% negative influence factor should be applied to
its land instead of the original 25% factor allowed by the State Board.
Land values in a given neighborhood are determined through the application of
a Land Order. See Ind. Admin. Code tit. 50, r. 2.2-4-10(a)(9) (1996);
see also Phelps Dodge v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 705 N.E.2d 1099,
1105 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1999) review denied. Land Orders are developed by
collecting and analyzing comparable sales data for a neighborhood. See Ind. Code
Ann. § 6-1.1-4-13.6 (West 1989); Ind. Admin. Code tit. 50, r. 2.2-4-10 (1996);
see also Talesnick v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 693 N.E.2d 657, 659
n.5 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1998). The County Land Valuation Commission studies the
sales data and recommends a range of values for the property in a
neighborhood. See Ind. Code Ann. § 6-1.1-4-13.6; see also Phelps Dodge, 705
N.E.2d at 1105. The State Board then sets the final values in
a Land Order. See Ind. Code Ann. § 6-1.1-4-13.6 (West 1989) (amended
1993 & 1997); see also Wirth v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 613
N.E.2d 874, 878 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1993).
Influence factors may be used by the assessor and the State Board to
adjust the values for properties that possess certain features that make those properties
unique. See Phelps Dodge, 705 N.E.2d at 1105. An . .
. influence factor is justified in instances where property has a condition peculiar
to the land that dictates an adjustment, either positive or negative . .
. to account for variations from the norm. Talesnick, 693 N.E.2d at
660 (quoting Ind. Admin. Code tit. 50, r. 2.2-4-10) (1996). In order
to apply an influence factor, the assessor must identify deviations from the norm
in the subject property. See Phelps Dodge, 705 N.E.2d at 1105.
These deviations are expressed as a percentage that reflects the composite effect of
the factor or factors that influence the value. See Ind. Admin. Code
tit. 50, r. 2.1-2-1.
In order to successfully challenge a final assessment determination, a taxpayer is required
to make a prima facie case at the administrative level supporting its contention.
See Clark v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 694 N.E.2d 1230, 1233 (Ind.
Tax Ct. 1998). Influence factors may be quantified by the use of
market data in order to reflect the deviation from market value assigned a
piece of property through the Land Order. See Phelps Dodge, 705 N.E.2d
at 1106. Once the taxpayer establishes a prima facie case, the burden
shifts to the State Board to rebut the taxpayers case with substantial evidence.
See id. To establish a prima facie case, the taxpayer must
do more than allege that an error exists. See Whitley Prods., Inc.
v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 704 N.E.2d 1113, 1119 (Ind. Tax Ct.
1998). Rather, the taxpayer must introduce evidence sufficient to establish a given
fact, which if not contradicted will remain sufficient. See Clark, 694 N.E.2d
In the present case, WRC introduced evidence showing that in a 1996 State
Board determination of a previous appeal, WRCs property had been given an 80%
negative influence factor.
(Petr. Ex. 8.) WRC argues that since an
80% negative influence factor was applied to its property once before, it is
entitled to the same factor in this case. WRC is mistaken.
The Court notes that in original tax appeals, each assessment and each tax
year stands alone. See Foursquare Tabernacle Church of God in Christ v.
State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 550 N.E.2d 850, 853 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1990).
The fact that WRCs land received an 80% negative influence factor in
one year is not necessarily indicative of the influence factor for a subsequent
The 80% negative influence factor given the property for the 1989 tax
year was to account for the lands irregular shape and for the fact
that no building existed on the property. (Petr Ex. 8.) (Trial Tr.
at 42.) This is no longer the case.
The State Board
claimed that the negative influence factor was reduced to 25% for the 1995
tax year because a building had been erected on the land. (Trial
Tr. at 88-89.) The State Board argued that since a building
now existed on WRCs land, an 80% negative influence factor was no longer
warranted. (Trial Tr. at 89.) WRC did not present any other
evidence to support its contention that it is entitled to an 80% negative
influence factor. Since WRC failed to establish a prima facie
case, the State Board was not required to rebut WRCs claim. See
Phelps Dodge, 705 N.E.2d at 1106. The Court affirms the State Boards
findings on this issue.
2. Kit Building Adjustment
WRCs second argument states that its property was entitled to a kit building
adjustment. The State Board has issued an instructional bulletin, in which various
aspects of kit buildings are discussed. See Instructional Bulletin 91-8 (1991).
Kit buildings are generally lightweight and are made of inexpensive materials. See
King Indus. Corp. v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 699 N.E.2d 338, 339
(Ind. Tax Ct. 1998). Common characteristics of kit buildings include Cold Form Cee
Channel wall supports, tapered roof beams and round steel columns. See id.
at 339. If a building qualifies as a kit building, it is
entitled to a 50% reduction in the base rate. See Ind. Admin.
Code tit. 50, r. 2.2-11-6 (Schedule A4) (1996) (listing base rates for kit
buildings); see also King Indus. Corp., 699 N.E.2d at 339. However, the
instructional bulletin notes that if the additional features of the kit building result
in the building no longer being economical, it cannot qualify for the kit
adjustment. See Instructional Bulletin 91-8 at 7.
This Court has stated that Instructional Bulletin 91-8 directs the inquiry to a
quantification of how much a deviation from the basic kit model increases the
cost of the improvement being assessed. See Morris v. State Bd. of
Tax Commrs, 712 N.E.2d 1120, 1123 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1999). In Morris,
the Court reversed the State Boards final determination that the taxpayers building did
not qualify as a kit building because it possessed a brick wall.
See id. at 1124. In Morris, this Court stated that the existence
of brick walls does not automatically disqualify a building from kit building status.
See id. This Court has previously ruled that a building may
still qualify for a kit adjustment even though it contains minor enhancements.
See King Indus. Corp., 699 N.E.2d at 342. Unlike the structure in
Morris though, WRCs building was covered entirely with brick veneer. (Trial Tr.
The State Board, in its final assessment determination, stated that because the exterior
of WRCs building was entirely covered with brick veneer, it was specifically disqualified
from receiving the kit adjustment. (Respt. Ex. 1.) The State Boards
hearing officer testified that while the State Board would allow a kit adjustment
for a building that contained some brick, a kit adjustment would not be
warranted where, as here, a building is bricked on all sides. (Trial
Tr. at 74) (We would allow brick . . . on the front
of a building to . . . add some cosmetic appearance. But
if it has brick from floor to ceiling all the way around the
building to significantly change the appearance . . . then . . .
it is no longer a lightduty, pre-engineered metal kit-type building.) WRC also claimed
that its building contained a rigid metal frame, secondary wall purlins, and Cee
channels. (Trial Tr. at 46, 57.) See Instructional Bulletin 91-8 at
4. However, WRC did not provide the detailed evidence necessary to support
(Trial Tr. at 65.)
The Court finds that although WRCs building may possess most of the characteristics
found in kit buildings, the fact that the building is entirely covered with
brick veneer takes it out of the economical category in which kit buildings
are found. See Barth, 699 N.E.2d at 800-01. Therefore, the Court
finds for the State Board on this issue.
For the reasons stated above, the Court AFFIRMS the final assessment determination of
the State Board in this case.
The record reflects that WRC is a partnership, not a
corporation. (Petr. Ex.1). The Court also notes that Mr. Cole is
proceeding on behalf of the partnership in a pro se basis. See
Ind. Code Ann. § 23-4-1-9 (West, 1994) (Every partner is an agent of
the partnership for the purpose of its business.) While it is unknown
who owns title to the land in question, the State Board did not
raise this issue either in its brief or at trial. Therefore, the
Court deems it waived and will not address it in this opinion.
See Scheid v. State Board of Tax Commrs, 560 N.E.2d 1283, 1284 (Ind.
Tax Ct. 1990). The Court also notes that litigants who choose to
proceed in a pro se basis are held to the same established rules
of procedure as trained legal counsel. See Wright v. Elston, 701 N.E.2d
1227, 1231 (Ind. Ct. App. 1998).
This determination stemmed from an appeal of WRCs 1989 reassessment.
While the record does not indicate an exact date, the
Court notes that WRCs building was constructed between the 1989 and 1995 reassessments.
(Trial Tr. at 42-43.)
At trial, Mr. Cole attempted to introduce several pieces of
evidence that would have supported WRCs case on this point. However,
since they were not introduced at the State Board level, this Court cannot
consider them here. See State Board of Tax Commissioners v. Gatling Gun
Club, 420 N.E.2d 1324, 1328 (Ind. Ct. App. 1981).