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Washington Park Cemetery Associaton, Inc. v. Marion County Assessor

Tax Court of Indiana

May 9, 2014

WASHINGTON PARK CEMETERY ASSOCIATON, INC., Petitioner,
v.
MARION COUNTY ASSESSOR, MARION COUNTY TREASURER, and MARION COUNTY AUDITOR, Respondents

ATTORNEYS FOR PETITIONER: JEFFREY T. BENNETT, BRADLEY D. HASLER, BINGHAM GREENEBAUM DOLL LLP, Indianapolis, IN.

ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENTS: JOHN C. SLATTEN, MARION COUNTY ASSESSOR'S OFFICE, Indianapolis, IN; DAVID J. LICHTENBERGER, OFFICE OF CORPORATION COUNSEL, Indianapolis, IN.

ORDER ON PETITIONER'S PETITION TO ENJOIN COLLECTION OF TAX AND RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

Martha Blood Wentworth, Judge.

Come now the parties, Washington Park Cemetery Association, Inc. having filed a Petition to Enjoin Collection of Tax (Petition) and the Marion County Assessor, Treasurer, and Auditor (collectively " Marion County" ) having filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (Motion). The Court, being duly advised in all matters, grants Marion County's Motion.

Page 272

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Washington Park is a non-profit cemetery association that owns a cemetery, mausoleum, and crematory complex in Indianapolis, Indiana. Included within the complex is a Community Life Center.

For many years, Washington Park's entire complex received an exemption from property taxation pursuant to Indiana Code § 6-1.1-10-27. In 2013, however, Washington Park received notice that the exemption previously applied to the Community Life Center had been removed effective with the March 1, 2012 assessment. The stated reason for the exemption's removal was that special events such as weddings sometimes were held there and there were no burials at that location.

On November 4, 2013, Washington Park filed both a Petition to the Indiana Board of Tax Review for Review of Exemption (Form 132) for the March 1, 2012 assessment date and a Petition for Correction of Error (Form 133) with the Marion County Property Tax Board of Appeals (PTABOA). The PTABOA denied the Form 133 and Washington Park then appealed that denial to the Indiana Board on December 13, 2013.

As of April 14, 2014, the Indiana Board had not yet scheduled a hearing on Washington Park's appeals. Consequently, Washington Park filed its Petition with this Court asking this Court to enjoin the collection of property taxes resulting from the exemption's removal. Marion County subsequently filed its Motion, asserting that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The Court conducted a hearing on May 8, 2014. Additional facts will be supplied as necessary.

LAW

Subject matter jurisdiction can only be conferred upon a court by the Indiana Constitution or by statute. State v. Sproles, 672 N.E.2d 1353, 1356 (Ind. 1996). " 'Jurisdiction of the subject matter involves the POWER of the court to hear and determine a general class of cases to which the proceedings belong.'" Harlan Sprague Dawley, Inc. v. Indiana Dep't of State Revenue, 583 N.E.2d 214, 216 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1991) (footnote and citation omitted).

Indiana Code § 33-26-3 confers upon this Court exclusive jurisdiction over " original tax appeals." Ind. Code § § 33-26-3-1, -3 (2014). An original tax appeal is a case that 1) arises under Indiana's tax laws and 2) is an initial appeal of a final determination of either the Indiana Department of State Revenue or the Indiana Board of Tax Review. I.C. § 33-26-3-1. Thus, for the Tax Court to possess subject matter jurisdiction over a case, two requirements must be met: 1) the case must arise under Indiana's tax laws, and 2) the case must appeal a final determination of either the Department or the Indiana Board. See Sproles, 672 N.E.2d at 1356-57.

A separate section within the Court's enabling statutes provides that " [a] taxpayer who wishes to enjoin the collection of a tax pending the original tax appeal must file a petition with the tax court to enjoin collection of the tax." Ind. Code § 33-26-6-2(b) (2014). " The petition must set forth a summary of: (1) the issues that the petitioner will raise in the original tax appeal; and (2) the equitable considerations for which the tax court should order the collection of the tax to be enjoined." Id. The Court may enjoin the collection of the tax if, after conducting a hearing, it finds " (1) the issues raised by the ...


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