Governing Statutes and Jurisdiction
Indiana Constitution Article 7, Section 1, Judicial Power. The judicial power of the State shall be vested in one Supreme Court, one Court of Appeals, Circuit Court, and such other courts as the General Assembly may establish.
The General Assembly established the Tax Court effective July 1, 1986. See Ind. Code Ann. § 33-26-1-1. It is a court of record.
The Tax Court has exclusive jurisdiction over any case that arises under the Indiana tax laws and that is an initial appeal of a final determination made by the Indiana Department of State Revenue or the Indiana Board of Tax Review. In addition, the Tax Court has jurisdiction over certain appeals from the Department of Local Government Finance. The Tax Court also hears appeals of inheritance tax determinations from the courts of probate jurisdiction. Such cases are called original tax appeals.
Prior to its creation, the cases over which the Tax Court now has jurisdiction were heard in the Circuit or Superior Courts of the county of location of property in property tax cases or in the county of residence or place of business of the taxpayer in all other cases.
Tax appeals procedure
Standard of Proof
The Tax Court may hear any admissible evidence in appeals from the Department of State Revenue and decide whether the tax is owing, and if so, how much tax is due. In an appeal from a final determination of the Indiana Board of Tax Review, the Tax Court's review is, with a few exceptions, limited to the record of proceedings before the Indiana Board of Tax Review to determine whether the final determination of the Indiana Board of Tax Review was made pursuant to proper procedures, was based on substantial or reliable evidence, was not arbitrary or capricious or an abuse of discretion, or was not in violation of any constitutional, statutory, or legal principle.
If the taxpayer files a petition for an injunction, the Tax Court may enjoin the collection of a tax pending the original tax appeal, if the court finds:
- that the issues raised by the original tax appeal are substantial;
- that petitioner has a reasonable opportunity to prevail in the original tax appeal, and;
- the equitable considerations favoring the enjoining of the collection of the tax outweigh the State's interest in collecting the tax pending the original tax appeal.
The Tax Court also has a small claims docket. A claim for refund of tax from the Department of State Revenue in which the amount in controversy does not exceed $5,000 for any year may qualify as a small claim.
Decisions and Appeals
Decisions of the Tax Court must be in writing and are published by West Publishing Company in the Northeastern Reporter 2d series and on Westlaw. Commerce Clearing House also publishes selected cases in the Indiana Tax Reports.
Decisions of the Tax Court may be appealed directly to the Indiana Supreme Court pursuant to the provisions of Indiana Appellate Rule 63.
Initiating an original tax appeal
An original tax appeal is commenced by filing a petition to set aside the final determination of either the Indiana Department of State Revenue, the Indiana Board of Tax Review, or the Department of Local Government Finance. All attorneys and self-represented litigants, unless otherwise exempted, must file petitions electronically using Indiana's E-Filing System. Petitions and summons shall be served in accordance with the Tax Court Rules and the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure.
The taxpayer must comply with all statutory requirements for the initiation of an original tax appeal in order for the Tax Court to obtain jurisdiction. In an appeal from the Department of State Revenue, the taxpayer may either appeal a decision contained in a letter of findings or pay the tax, file a claim for a refund, and appeal the denial of the claim for refund. If a refund claim is filed and the Department of State Revenue does not act within 180 days, the claim is deemed denied. Appeals from the Department of State Revenue must be filed with the Court within 180 days of the letter of findings or within 90 days of the denial of the refund except for certain fuel related taxes which have different deadlines. Appeals from final determinations of the Indiana Board of Tax Review or the Department of Local Government Finance must be filed within 45 days from the final determination.
The Tax Court hears cases in Allen, St. Joseph, Lake, Marion, Vigo, Vanderburgh, and Jefferson counties as elected by the taxpayer. All trials are conducted without a jury.
Rules governing Tax Court procedure, as well as a sample petition and notice of appearance form, can be found in the Tax Court Rules.