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RJK Trust v. Laporte Cnty. Assessor

Tax Court of Indiana

September 18, 2015

RJK TRUST/ ROBERT J. KUCHLER, TRUSTEE, Petitioner,
v.
LAPORTE COUNTY ASSESSOR, Respondent

ON APPEAL FROM A FINAL DETERMINATION OF THE INDIANA BOARD OF TAX REVIEW.

ROBERT J. KUCHLER, TRUSTEE, PETITIONER, Pro se, Long Beach, IN.

FOR RESPONDENT: MARILYN S. MEIGHEN, ATTORNEY AT LAW, Carmel, IN.

OPINION

WENTWORTH, J.

RJK Trust, Robert J. Kuchler, Trustee, appeals the final determination of the Indiana Board of Tax Review that increased its 2006 real property assessment from $630,500 to $800,000 based on an independent appraisal the Assessor provided to RJK Trust for the first time at the administrative hearing. The Court reverses the Indiana Board's final determination.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

RJK Trust owns a single-family residential home in Long Beach, Indiana. The Michigan Township Assessor determined the assessed value of the property to be $630,500 ($421,600 for land and $208,900 for improvements) as of the March 1, 2006, assessment date.

Believing the value to be too high, RJK Trust filed an appeal with the LaPorte County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA). On May 11, 2011, the PTABOA denied RJK Trust's appeal. RJK Trust subsequently filed an appeal with the Indiana Board, electing to have the case heard pursuant to the Indiana Board's small claims procedures.

The Indiana Board held a hearing on December 19, 2012. The Indiana Board determined that the Assessor bore the burden of proving that RJK Trust's 2006 assessment was correct. (Cert. Admin. R. at 20 ¶ 14.) See also Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-17.2 (2012) (amended 2014). During the hearing, the Assessor submitted an independent appraisal report that valued RJK Trust's property at $800,000 based on the sales data of three comparable properties. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 144-61.) The Appraiser, however, did not testify. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 163-269.) In rebuttal, RJK Trust presented testimony and other evidence, including among other things, PTABOA hearing minutes, property record cards, and a portion of the Real Property Assessment Guidelines in support of its claims. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 86-93, 113-21, 129-39.) On March 11, 2013, the Indiana Board issued its final determination, finding that the Assessor's appraisal reflected the subject property's market value-in-use as of March 1, 2006. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 23 ¶ 16.)

On April 23, 2013, RJK Trust initiated this original tax appeal. The Court conducted oral argument on December 2, 2013. Additional facts will be supplied when 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. Tipton Cnty. Health Care Found., Inc. v. Tipton Cnty. Assessor, 961 N.E.2d 1048, 1050 (Ind.Tax Ct. 2012). Indeed, the Court will reverse a final determination of the Indiana Board only if it is:

(1) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in ...

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