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Wells Cnty. Assessor v. Alexin, LLC

Tax Court of Indiana

December 31, 2015

WELLS COUNTY ASSESSOR, Petitioner,
v.
ALEXIN, LLC, Respondent

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

         ATTORNEYS FOR PETITIONER: BRIAN A. CUSIMANO, JEFFREY D. COLLINS, ATTORNEYS AT LAW, Indianapolis, IN; MARILYN S. MEIGHEN, ATTORNEY AT LAW, Carmel, IN.

         ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT: RANDAL J. KALTENMARK, ZIA MOLLABASHY, BARNES & THORNBURG LLP, Indianapolis, IN.

          OPINION

Page 1290

          WENTWORTH, J.

         This case examines the Indiana Board of Tax Review's final determination that the Common Council of the City of Bluffton (Council) waived Alexin, LLC's non-compliance with certain statutory requirements for its 2013 personal property tax abatement deduction. Upon review, the Court finds that the Indiana Board's final determination is contrary to law.[1]

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Alexin operates an aluminum production/manufacturing business in an area of Wells County, Indiana that the Council designated as an economic revitalization area. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 53, 75, 77.) Prior to 2013, the Council granted Alexin a ten-year abatement of taxes on its personal property. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 75, 77.) To claim its tax abatement deduction in 2013, Alexin's CPA prepared, among other things, its Business Tangible Personal Property Assessment Return, three Compliance With Statement of Benefits Personal Property forms (Forms CF-1), and a Schedule Of Deduction From Assessed Valuation Personal Property In Economic Revitalization Area form (Form 103-ERA). (See Cert. Admin. R. at 56-62, 64-70, 75-76, 79.) Due to an administrative oversight, however, Alexin did not timely file any of its tax abatement forms with the Wells County Assessor. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 77, 79.) As a result, the Assessor issued a Notice of Assessment Change to Alexin that disallowed its 2013 tax abatement deduction.

         On August 10, 2013, Alexin filed an appeal with the Wells County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA). While that appeal was pending, Alexin asked the Council to issue a resolution that waived " the late filing of [its] personal property [tax] abatement forms." (See Cert. Admin. R. at 79.) On September 3, 2013, after holding a public hearing, the Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2013-9 pursuant to Indiana Code § 6-1.1-12.1-9.5 and § 6-1.1-12.1-11.3, which provided that " Alexin's former non-compliance with respect to the timing of the filing of the [Forms CF-1] . . . is waived and the [Forms CF-1] as filed should be and are hereby approved[.]" (See Cert. Admin. R. at 78.) On September 27, 2013, the PTABOA issued a final determination, upholding the Assessor's disallowance of Alexin's 2013 tax abatement deduction.

         On October 15, 2013, Alexin appealed to the Indiana Board. On September 18, 2014, the Indiana Board conducted a hearing on Alexin's appeal during which Alexin claimed that its 2013 tax abatement deduction should be reinstated because the

Page 1291

Council had waived the untimeliness of its Forms CF-1 in Resolution 2013-9. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 135-36, 138-42.) The Assessor, on the other hand, argued that Alexin was not entitled to the tax abatement deduction because the Council lacked the statutory authority to waive Alexin's act of non-compliance. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 143-50.) The Assessor also claimed that Alexin was not entitled to the deduction because Resolution 2013-9 only waived Alexin's non-compliance regarding its Forms CF-1, not regarding its personal property tax return. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 147-49.) On December 17, 2014, the Indiana Board issued its final determination reinstating Alexin's 2013 tax abatement deduction based on its conclusion that " [t]he Council [had] acted within its [statutory] authority in passing a resolution waiving [Alexin's] non-compliance." (See Cert. Admin. R. at 23.)

         On January 30, 2015, Alexin initiated this original tax appeal. The Court heard oral argument on November 20, 2015. 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 of the procedure required by law; or unsupported by substantial or reliable evidence. IND. CODE § 33-26- 6-6(e)(1)-(5) (2015).

         LAW

          An " economic revitalization ...


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