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Washington Twp. Assessor v. Verizon Data Servs., Inc.

Tax Court of Indiana

October 30, 2015

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP ASSESSOR, ALLEN COUNTY ASSESSOR, and ALLEN COUNTY PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT BOARD OF APPEALS, Petitioners,
v.
VERIZON DATA SERVICES, INC., Respondent

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

ATTORNEYS FOR PETITIONERS: MARK E. GIAQUINTA, MELANIE L. FARR, SARAH L. SCHREIBER, HALLER & COLVIN, P.C., Fort Wayne, IN.

ATTORNEYS FOR AMICUS CURIAE: MARILYN S. MEIGHEN, ATTORNEY AT LAW, Carmel, IN; JOHN S. DULL, BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS OF LAKE COUNTY, Crown Point, IN.

ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT: JEFFREY T. BENNETT, BRADLEY D. HASLER, MARGARET M. CHRISTENSEN, BINGHAM GREENEBAUM DOLL LLP, Indianapolis, IN.

OPINION

WENTWORTH, J.

The Washington Township Assessor, the Allen County Assessor, and the Allen County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (collectively Allen County) claim that the Indiana Board of Tax Review erred in granting summary judgment to Verizon Data Services, Inc. because the Allen County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA) failed to issue its final determination within the statutorily prescribed period. Upon review, the Court finds that the Indiana Board did not err.[1]

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On May 15, 2005, Verizon filed its Business Tangible Personal Property Return with the Washington Township Assessor, reporting the assessed value of its personal property at $21 million for the 2005 tax year. On September 15, 2005, the Township Assessor issued a Notice of Assessment/Change (Form 113/PP) to Verizon that increased the 2005 personal property assessment to nearly $58 million.

On October 28, 2005, Verizon informed the Township Assessor that it was seeking review of the Form 113/PP with the PTABOA pursuant to Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-1 and that the Township Assessor should contact its attorneys to schedule a preliminary conference. When the Township Assessor contacted one of Verizon's attorneys, he requested that the conference be scheduled at a time that allowed Verizon's representatives to appear in person. The Township Assessor and Verizon ultimately held the preliminary conference on July 12, 2006. When the two parties were unable to reach an agreement, one of Verizon's attorneys requested that the PTABOA hearing not be held until certain matters could be discussed with his client.

On October 26, 2006, the PTABOA held a hearing. On May 7, 2007, the PTABOA issued a Notification of Final Assessment Determination (Form 115) that reduced Verizon's personal property assessment to $50,777,790 for the 2005 tax year.

On June 11, 2007, Verizon appealed to the Indiana Board, asserting that certain statutory and constitutional valuation provisions required its personal property assessment to be further reduced. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 3-29.) On January 29, 2009, Verizon moved for summary judgment on the sole issue that the PTABOA's Form 115 was untimely because it should have been issued by October 30, 2005, pursuant to Indiana Code § § 6-1.1-16-1 to -4 (Chapter 16). (See Cert. Admin. R. at 185-89, 407-08.) On April 13, 2009, Allen County filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, asserting that the PTABOA's Form 115 was timely because Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-1's (Section 15-1) deadlines applied, not Chapter 16's deadlines. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 225-34, 355-62.) Alternatively, Allen County argued that the doctrines of waiver and estoppel prevented the Chapter 16 deadlines from being invoked. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 233-34.) On December 28, 2010, after conducting a hearing, the Indiana Board issued its final determination granting summary judgment in favor of Verizon and against Allen County.

On February 9, 2011, Allen County initiated this original tax appeal. The Court heard oral argument on February 5, 2014. Additional facts will be supplied if necessary.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The party seeking to overturn an Indiana Board final determination bears the burden of demonstrating its invalidity. Hubler Realty Co. v. Hendricks Cnty. Assessor,938 N.E.2d 311, 313 (Ind.Tax Ct. 2010). The Court will reverse a final determination 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 or short of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations; without observance ...


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