PETITIONER APPEARING PRO SE: ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT:
DONALD ADAMS STEVE CARTER
Indianapolis, IN ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA
TED J. HOLADAY
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL
INDIANA TAX COURT
DONALD ADAMS, )
v. ) Cause No. 49T10-0305-TA-25
CHARLES R. SPEARS, )
TOWNSHIP ASSESSOR OF )
WAYNE TOWNSHIP, MARION COUNTY, )
ON APPEAL FROM A FINAL DETERMINATION OF
THE INDIANA BOARD OF TAX REVIEW
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
June 28, 2004
Donald Adams (Adams) appeals the Indiana Board of Tax Reviews (Indiana Board) final
determination valuing his personal property for the 2001 tax year. The issue
is whether the Wayne Township Assessor (Assessor) erred in estimating an assessed value
for Adams property because he failed to timely file a business tangible personal
property return (return).
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Adams owns a restaurant equipment business located in Indianapolis, Indiana. When Adams
failed to report his business personal property for the 2001 tax year, the
Assessor estimated an assessed value for Adams property in the amount of $174,
Adams protested the assessment by filing a Form 130 Petition for Review of
Assessment with the Marion County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA) on
May 10, 2002. The PTABOA sustained the Assessors value. Adams appealed
to the Indiana Board. The Indiana Board also denied Adams appeal.
Adams initiated an original tax appeal on May 27, 2003. On May
14, 2004, this Court heard the parties oral arguments. Additional facts will
be supplied as necessary.
ANALYSIS AND OPINION
Standard of Review
This Court gives great deference to final determinations of the Indiana Board when
it acts within the scope of its authority. Wittenberg Lutheran Vill. Endowment
Corp. v. Lake County Prop. Tax Assessment Bd. of Appeals, 782 N.E.2d 483,
486 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2003), review denied. Consequently, the Court may reverse
a final determination of the Indiana Board only if it is:
arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law;
contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity;
in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations, or short of statutory jurisdiction,
authority, or limitations;
without observance of procedure required by law; or
unsupported by substantial or reliable evidence.
Ind. Code Ann. § 33-3-5-14.8(e)(1)-(5) (West Supp. 2003). The party seeking to
overturn the Indiana Boards final determination bears the burden of proving its invalidity.
Osolo Township Assessor v. Elkhart Maple Lane Assocs., L.P., 789 N.E.2d 109,
111 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2003).
Indiana Code § 6-1.1-3-7, for the year at issue, provides that a taxpayer
shall, on or before the filing date of each year, file a personal
property return with the assessor of each township in which the taxpayers personal
property is subject to assessment. Ind. Code Ann. § 6-1.1-3-7(a) (West 2001)
(amended 2002). When a taxpayer fails to file a personal property tax
return, the township assessor may estimate the value of the personal property of
the taxpayer and shall assess the [taxpayer] . . . in an amount
based upon the estimate. Ind. Admin. Code tit. 50, r. 4.2-3-1(b) (1996);
see also Ind. Code Ann. § 6-1.1-3-15(c) (West 2001). Upon receiving a
notification of estimated value from the township assessor, [a] taxpayer may elect to
file a personal property return within thirty (30) days from the date of
the written notice of assessment[.] 50 IAC 4.2-3-1(b).
At the administrative hearing, Adams explained that his return was untimely filed because
he thought [his] accountant did it and because he thought his equipment had
no value to report. (Cert. Admin. R. at 116.) In the
alternative, Adams claims that the assessed value of his tangible business personal property
is no more than $16,251, the value he reported on his untimely filed
return for 2001. At any rate, Adams asserts that the taxes that
are being placed on [my personal property are] way, way out of line
even though I did not file the papers in due time[.] (Oral
Argument Tr. at 5.)
The Assessor asserts that its estimated value of Adams property should be sustained.
Because Adams did not file his return until May 15, 2002, the
Assessor claims it was within its authority to estimate the value of his
property at $174,600.
See footnote As the Assessor explained, the latest possible filing deadline
for Adams 2001 return was, had he filed for an extension, December 15,
See Cert. Admin. R. at 112.)
In its final determination, the Indiana Board sustained the Assessors estimated value of
Adams property. While the Court agrees with the Indiana Boards result, it
does so with a different reasoning.
See footnote Adams bore the responsibility to timely
file his return; because he did not, the Assessor could estimate an assessment.
See Ind. Admin. Code tit. 50, r. 4.2-2-2 (1996) (stating that [i]t
is the responsibility of the taxpayer to obtain forms from the assessor and
file a timely return); see also 50 IAC 4.2-3-1(b). Adams had the
opportunity to challenge the Assessors estimate; he failed to do so within the
proper timeframe. See id.; A.I.C. § 6-1.1-3-15(c). Thus, the Court concludes
that the Assessor acted within its authority in estimating and assigning a value
to his property.
For the reasons stated above, the Court AFFIRMS the Indiana Boards final determination.
Footnote: In Indiana, taxpayers self-report business personal property by filing a return with
the local assessor on or before May 15th of each year unless an
extension is granted.
See Ind. Admin. Code tit. 50, r. 4.2-2-2 (1996).
Adams filed his return for the 2001 tax year on May 15,
2002; the Assessor denied the return, however, because it was not timely filed.
The Assessor explained that when a taxpayer fails to file a return,
it estimates an initial assessed value for business property at $3,100. (Cert.
Admin. R. at 111.) Each successive year the taxpayer fails to file
a return, the Assessor applies multipliers of 25%, 150%, and 500% to that
See Cert. Admin. R. at 111.) The Assessor also explained
that the increased percentages are utilized to motivate taxpayers to timely file their
returns each year. (Cert. Admin. R. at 114.) Adams failure to
file a return since 1998 has resulted in the $174,600 assessment. (See
Cert. Admin. R. at 109-14.)
The Indiana Board concluded that Adams failed to submit sufficient evidence supporting
the figures he reported on his return. (
See Cert. Admin. R. at
47-48.) However, the Indiana Boards analysis missed the point: at the
administrative hearing, the Assessor did not challenge the accuracy of Adams return; the
Assessor merely concluded that the return could not be considered because it was
not timely filed. In fact, the record indicates that the Assessor accepted
as true and correct the figures on Adams timely filed return for 2002.
(Cert. Admin. R. at 112.)
The Court notes its frustration with this result: while the Court
is mindful of the Assessors burden in estimating a value for property in
the absence of information provided by the taxpayer, increasing an assessment by 500%
demeans and diminishes the entire assessment process.