Indianapolis, IN
    Indianapolis, IN

DONALD ADAMS,                                                          )
    Petitioner,                                                             )
    v.                                                                      )   Cause No. 49T10-0305-TA-25
CHARLES R. SPEARS,                                                          )
TOWNSHIP ASSESSOR OF                                                        )
WAYNE TOWNSHIP, MARION COUNTY,                                              ) 
    Respondent.                                                             )    


June 28, 2004

    Donald Adams (Adams) appeals the Indiana Board of Tax Review’s (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).

    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, 600. See footnote
    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 Assessor’s 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.
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 Board’s 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 taxpayer’s 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, 2001. ( See Cert. Admin. R. at 112.)
In its final determination, the Indiana Board sustained the Assessor’s estimated value of Adams’ property. While the Court agrees with the Indiana Board’s 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 Assessor’s 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. See footnote

For the reasons stated above, the Court AFFIRMS the Indiana Board’s 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.

Footnote: 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 amount. ( 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.)

Footnote: 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 Board’s 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.)

Footnote: The Court notes its frustration with this result: while the Court is mindful of the Assessor’s 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.