LARRY G. JONES and SHARON F. JONES, Petitioners,
JEFFERSON COUNTY ASSESSOR, Respondent
APPEAL FROM A FINAL DETERMINATION OF THE INDIANA BOARD OF TAX
G. JONES, SHARON F. JONES, PETITIONERS, Appearing Pro se,
FOR RESPONDENT: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL;
JESSICA E. REAGAN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, Indianapolis, IN.
G. and Sharon F. Jones challenge the final determination of
the Indiana Board of Tax Review that upheld the assessments
of their real property for the 2008 and 2009 tax years
(" years at issue" ). Upon review, the Court
affirms the Indiana Board's final determination.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Joneses own a single-family dwelling situated on
approximately 100 acres of farmland in Hanover, Indiana. In
2008, their property was assessed at $501,400 ($105,900 for
land and $395,500 for improvements), and in 2009, their
assessment increased to $505,100 ($109,600 for land and
$395,500 for improvements). (See Cert. Admin. R. at 73-74.)
April of 2011, the Joneses contacted the Jefferson County
Assessor to explain that these assessments were based on the
same " critical" error -- the assumption that their
residence was 100% complete as of the assessment date when it
was not. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 137.) The Assessor
subsequently inspected the exterior of the property,
determined that the residence appeared to be occupied and
complete, and referred the matter to the Jefferson County
Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA) for further
action. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 68-69, 111-14, 137-40,
143-44.) On April 18, 2012, after conducting a hearing, the
PTABOA denied the Joneses' appeal. The Joneses
subsequently appealed to the Indiana Board.
1, 2013, the Indiana Board held a hearing during which the
Joneses did not contest their land valuation, but claimed
that their residence should have been assigned an assessed
value of $0 during the years at issue. (See, e.g., Cert.
Admin. R. at 2-3, 147, 151-52.) The Joneses presented a
two-page document prepared by the former Trustee/Assessor of
Hanover Township to support their claim. (See Cert. Admin. R.
at 66-67, 130-31.) The Trustee/Assessor explained that
litigation between the Joneses and the contractor building
their house erupted in 2006, leaving the residence
uninhabitable and only 50% complete. (See Cert. Admin. R. at
66-69.) The Trustee/Assessor further stated that because the
residence was still uninhabitable in 2008, it should not have
been assessed. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 67.) In addition, the
Trustee/Assessor surmised that someone may have mistakenly
assumed that the residence was complete because the Joneses
owned another property in the same neighborhood for which
they had applied for a homestead deduction. (See Cert. Admin.
R. at 66-67, 70-71.)
response, the Assessor asserted that the
Trustee/Assessor's document lacked probative value
because it was not notarized and contained several
unattributed handwritten alterations. (See Cert. Admin. R. at
144.) The Assessor also presented an Appraisal that valued
the Joneses' entire property at $500,000 as of January
11, 2011, despite the fact that the construction of their
residence was only 74.5% complete as of that date. (See Cert.
Admin. R. at 77-101, 134, 140-42.) Finally, the Assessor
argued that because the Joneses received a homestead
deduction in 2008, it was reasonable to conclude that they
lived in the residence at that time. (See Cert. Admin. R. at
17, 2013, the Indiana Board issued a final determination
finding that the parties' evidentiary presentations had
established that the Joneses' residence was assessed as
if it were 100% complete during the years at issue when
clearly it was not. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 33-34 ¶ 28.)
Nonetheless, the Indiana Board's final determination
found that the Joneses' assessments must stand because
their primary evidence, the Trustee/Assessor's document,
was unreliable and provided insufficient support for their
requested valuation of $0. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 31 ¶
21, 34-35 ¶ ¶ 29-31.)
August 28, 2013, the Joneses initiated this original tax
appeal. Thereafter, the Assessor unsuccessfully moved to
dismiss the Joneses' appeal on the basis that they failed
to timely request and file the certified administrative
record. See generally Jones v. Jefferson Cnty.
Assessor, 6 N.E.3d 1048 (Ind.Tax Ct. 2014). On November
6, 2014, the Court heard oral argument on the merits.
Additional facts will be supplied as necessary.
party seeking to overturn an Indiana Board final
determination bears the burden of demonstrating its
invalidity. Kildsig v. Warrick Cnty. Assessor, 998
N.E.2d 764, 765 (Ind.Tax Ct. 2013). 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 ...