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Jones v. Jefferson County Assessor

Tax Court of Indiana

May 4, 2016

LARRY G. JONES and SHARON F. JONES, Petitioners,


         LARRY G. JONES, SHARON F. JONES, PETITIONERS, Appearing Pro se, Hanover, IN.



         WENTWORTH, J.

         Larry 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.


         The 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.)

         In 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.

         On May 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.)

         In 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 102-10, 142-44.)

         On July 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.)

         On 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.


          The 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 ...

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