INDIANA TAX COURT
PURITAN HOME FUNDING CO., L.P., )
v. ) Cause No. 49T10-0011-TA-122
STATE BOARD OF TAX COMMISSIONERS, )
Order on Motions for Joinder or Dismissal
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
July 13, 2001
Puritan Home Funding Co., L.P. (Puritan) appeals the October 13, 2000, final determinations
by the State Board of Tax Commissioners (State Board) that assessed its parcels
of property as of the March 1, 1995 and March 1, 1996 assessment
dates. The issue before the Court today is whether the Court should
grant the State Boards motion for joinder of local taxing officials as parties
in interest or alternative motion for joinder of local officials and dismissal of
the State Board.
For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES the State Boards motions for
dismissal and joinder.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Puritan owns parcels of property located in Center Township in Marion County, Indiana.
For the tax years March, 1, 1995 and 1996, the Center Township
Assessor (Township Assessor) assessed the properties in question. Puritan appealed the assessments
to the Marion County Board of Review (BOR).
See footnote Thereafter, Puritan sought review
of the BORs assessment by the State Board via 131 petitions for review
of assessment (131 Petition). On October 10, 2000, the State Board issued
final determinations on Puritans 131 Petitions.
On November 22, 2000, Puritan filed an original tax appeal with this Court.
On March 27, 2001, the State Board filed a motion for joinder
of local taxing officials as parties in interest or alternative motion for joinder
of local officials and dismissal of the State Board. Thereafter, the Marion
County Assessor and the Center Township Assessor (local officials) filed responses to the
State Boards motion and motions for amicus curiae status. On April 23,
2001, this Court held a hearing on the State Boards motion and the
local officials motion. At the hearing, the Court granted the local officials
motion for amicus curiae status. (Hearing Tr. at 3.) Additional facts
will be provided as necessary.
ANALYSIS, OPINION, AND ORDER
I. Motion for Dismissal
The State Board argues that it should be dismissed from this case because
it is a quasi-judicial decision making body with no legal interest in the
outcome of this proceeding. The State Board claims that it is more
like a lower tribunal. (Memorandum in Support of State Boards Motion for Joinder
or Dismissal at 3.) More specifically, the State Board asserts that making
it a party in this case is analogous to a trial court being
named as a proper party in an appeal filed with the Court of
Appeals. Id. The State Board contends that there are no statutes
or cases that require that it be a party to a case under
Historically, the State Board has been a party in tax cases. First,
the State Boards position as a defendant in tax cases is not a
recent development. Naming the State Board as a party is established precedent.
The Courts research reveals that as early as 1898 the State Board
was a party in tax cases. See State Bd. of Tax Commrs
v. Holliday, 49 N.E. 14, 20 (Ind. 1898)(holding that State Board did not
have the legal authority to provide regulations for or order the assessment of
life insurance policies as personal property).
Second, despite the State Boards quasi-judicial role, the Indiana Tax Court Rules make
it a party in all cases where it has issued a final determination.
Indiana Tax Court Rule 4 provides: [n]otwithstanding anything to the contrary herein,
the Tax Court acquires jurisdiction over the . . . State Board of
Tax Commissioners in an original tax appeal upon the filing of a petition
with the clerk of the Tax Court seeking to set aside a final
determination [of the State Board]. Ind. Tax Court Rule 4(A). The
rule also states that the Clerk will transmit copies to the State Board
as a defendant and that it is not necessary to serve summons on
the State Board. Tax Ct. R. 4(A)&(B). In Indiana Model Co.,
Inc. v. State Bd of Tax Commrs, this Court stated that Tax Ct.
R. 4 explains how the Tax Court acquires personal jurisdiction over the State
Board. Indiana Model Co., Inc. v. State Bd of Tax Commrs, 639
N.E.2d 695, 698 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1994) (original emphasis). The Indiana Tax
Court Rules clearly make the State Board a party to an appeal.
While the State Boards argument that it is a quasi-judicial body has merit,
dismissing the State Board as a party in these cases where it has
historically been a party is for the legislature by statute or for our
Supreme Court by rule change to do, not this Court.
For the above stated reasons, the Court DENIES the State Boards motion to
dismiss it as a party to this original tax appeal.
II. Motion for Joinder
The State Board argues that the local officials should be joined as necessary
parties in interest in this case because these entities have a direct interest
in the proceedings as a result of their financial stake in the outcome
of the proceedings.
See footnote More specifically, the State Board argues that the local
officials make property tax assessments, and local units of government use that tax
money to fund schools, police and fire departments. (Memorandum in Support of
State Boards Motion for Joinder or Dismissal at 1.) The local officials
argue that they should not be joined in this case.
The State Board asserts that the local officials should be joined pursuant to
Indiana Trial Rules 12(B)(7) and 19. Trial Rule 12(B)(7) provides a defense
to a claim for [f]ailure to join a party needed for just adjudication
under Rule 19. Ind. Trial Rule 12(B)(7). Trial Rule 19 is
titled Joinder of person needed for just adjudication and provides that a person
shall be joined as a party if:
(1) in his absence complete relief cannot be accorded among those already parties;
(2) he claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and
is so situated that the disposition of the action in his absence may:
(a) as a practical matter impair or impede his ability to protect
that interest, or
(b) leave any of the persons already parties subject to a substantial
risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent obligations by reason of his
claimed interest. CONCLUSION
Ind. Trial Rule 19(A)(1)&(2). The rule governing joinder of parties does not
set forth a rigid or mechanical formula for making the determination, but rather
is designed to encourage courts to apprise themselves of the practical considerations of
each individual case in view of the policies underlying the rule. Rollins
Burdick Hunter of Utah, Inc. v. Board of Trustees of Ball State University,
665 N.E.2d 914, 920 (Ind. Ct. App. 1996). The party asserting joinder
has the burden of proving that joinder is necessary. Id.
Here, the State Board simply argues that the local officials should be joined
because they made the property tax assessment and bear the risk of loosing
[sic] money as a result of the proceedings. (Memorandum in Support of
State Boards Motion for Joinder or Dismissal at 5.) However, the State
Board has not shown that complete relief cannot be afforded between the State
Board and taxpayer in the absence of the local officials.
19(A)(1). In fact the contrary is true as the State Board makes
a final determination of the true tax value of property in an appeal.
As such, the State Board has not met its burden of
proof that joinder is necessary.
See Rollins Burdick Hunter of Utah, Inc.,
665 N.E.2d at 920.
The Court DENIES the State Boards motion to joinder of the local officials
in this action.
For the foregoing reasons, the State Boards motion for joinder of local taxing
officials as parties in interest and motion for joinder of local officials and
dismissal of the State Board are DENIED.
Thomas G. Fisher, Judge
Indiana Tax Court
DANN, PECAR, NEWMAN & KLEIMAN
One American Square Suite 2300
Indianapolis, IN 46282
Mark C. Webb
William M. Waltz
State Board of Tax Commissioners
100 N. Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Andrew P. Sweiwert
Office of Corporation Counsel
200 East Washington Street, Suite 1601
Indianapolis, IN 46204
The BOR no longer exists. The Marion County Property Tax
Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA) now reviews appeals by taxpayers from assessments by
the township assessing official.
See Pub. Law No. 6-1997, § 71, Eff.
Jan. 1, 1999 (codified at Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-1 (West 2000)) (substituting "county
property tax assessment board of appeals" for "county board of review").
The Court notes that effective January 1, 2002, the State Board
will be abolished and no longer a party to original tax appeals in
this Court. Act of May 11, 2001, Pub. L. No. 198-2001 §§
95, 119 (H.E.A. 1499). However, appeals to the Tax Court from final
determinations of the State Board of Tax Commissioners that were issued before January
1, 2002, [will be] subject to the law in effect before the amendments
under this act.
Id. at § 117.
At trial, the State Board conceded that the Marion County PTABOA
should not be joined as the State Board stated that the PTABOA has
no direct interest, but the county and township assessors do. (Hearing Tr.
In addition, the local officials are not claiming that they have
an interest in being joined as a party in this action. See
T.R. 19(A)(2). However, in most cases, if the local officials wish to
be joined as amicus curiae the Court will be willing to grant such
January 1, 2002, the legislature has amended the Indiana Code to
provide for naming local officials as parties in tax cases before this Court.
Act of May 11, 2001, Pub. L. No. 198-2001 §§ 45, 95,
100 (H.E.A. 1499). In addition, this legislation requires that the Attorney General
represent local officials in cases where the local official made an original determination
that is the subject of a judicial proceeding in this Court and is
a defendant in a judicial proceeding in this Court. Id. at §