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Switzerland County Assessor v. Belterra Resort Indiana, LLC

Tax Court of Indiana

August 15, 2019

SWITZERLAND COUNTY ASSESSOR, Petitioner,
v.
BELTERRA RESORT INDIANA, LLC, Respondent.

          ATTORNEYS FOR PETITIONER: JEFFREY T. BENNETT BRADLEY D. HASLER BINGHAM GREENEBAUM DOLL LLP Indianapolis, IN

          ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT: DAVID A. SUESS BRENT A. AUBERRY BENJAMIN A. BLAIR STEPHEN H. PAUL BRIAN J. PAUL FAEGRE BAKER & DANIELS LLP Indianapolis, IN

          ORDER ON RESPONDENT'S MOTION FOR ENFORCEMENT OF DECISION AND FOR ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE

          MARTHA BLOOD WENTWORTH, JUDGE INDIANA TAX COURT

         This matter is before the Court on Belterra Resort Indiana, LLC's "Motion for Enforcement of Decision and For Order to Show Cause." The Court, being duly advised in the premises, grants Belterra's Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         On May 24, 2018, this Court issued an opinion that affirmed in part and reversed in part the final determination of the Indiana Board of Tax Review valuing Belterra Resort Indiana, LLC's real property for purposes of the 2009 through 2014 assessments. See Switzerland Cty. Assessor v. Belterra Resort Indiana, LLC, 101 N.E.3d 895 (Ind. Tax Ct.), review denied. The Court provided instructions in its opinion for recomputing Belterra's assessments and remanded the matter to the Indiana Board. Id. at 909. See also Switzerland Cty. Assessor v. Belterra Resort Indiana, LLC, No. 49T10-1705-TA-00009 (Ind. Tax Ct. Jan. 25, 2019) (order granting Assessor's Motion for Clarification of Remand Status). On March 7, 2019, the Indiana Board issued an "Order on Remand" instructing the Assessor to enter assessments that complied with the Court's instructions. (See Resp't Mot. Enf't Decision & Order Show Cause ("Belterra's Mot."), Ex. 3 at 2 ¶ 7.) In doing so, however, the Indiana Board stated its belief that it was only required to order an assessment, not to actually oversee the recomputation process. (See Belterra's Mot., Ex. 3 at 2 ¶ 7.)

         When, by June 7, 2019, no assessments had yet been entered, Belterra, by counsel, filed its Motion asking the Court to enforce its May 24, 2018, decision by issuing an order to show cause why its decision had not been executed. On June 17, 2019, the Switzerland County Assessor, by counsel, responded by asserting that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to decide the Motion. (See Pet'r Br. Resp. Mot. Enforcement Decision & Order Show Cause ("Assessor's Br.") at 4-9.)

         On July 9, 2019, after the Motion had been fully briefed and was pending before the Court, the Assessor filed a "Motion for Leave to File Surreply to [Belterra's Motion]" claiming that on July 3, 2019, final assessed values had been assigned to Belterra's property and the process for issuing refunds to Belterra had already been consummated. (See Pet'r Mot. Leave File Surreply Mot. Enf't Decision & Order Show Cause ("Assessor's Surreply") at 2 ¶ 3.) As a result, the Assessor argued, "any disagreement Belterra has with the refund amount must [now] be resolved by a court of competent jurisdiction located in Switzerland County[.]" (Assessor's Surreply at 2 ¶ 4.)

         LAW

         This Court exercises exclusive jurisdiction over cases that arise under Indiana's tax laws and are initial appeals of final determinations of the Indiana Board. Ind. Code § 33-26-3-1 (2019). If, in the course of exercising its jurisdiction, the Court determines that an Indiana Board final determination cannot be affirmed, it must remand the matter to the Indiana Board with instructions. Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-8(a) (2018). Pursuant to those instructions, the Indiana Board may conduct further proceedings and correct the assessment itself or refer the matter to the county property tax assessment board of appeals to make another assessment. I.C. § 6-1.1-15-8(a); Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-9(a) (2018). Either way, the corrected assessment is subject to appeal. See I.C. § 6-1.1-15-9 (providing that if the Indiana Board corrects the assessment, the taxpayer or the assessor has the right to appeal from the Indiana Board's "final determination" to the Tax Court). See also Ind. Code §§ 6-1.1-15-1.2, -2.5, -3 (2018) (indicating that the "final determinations" of county property tax assessment boards of appeals are reviewed by the Indiana Board, whose final determinations are then reviewed by the Tax Court). The right to appeal a corrected assessment is triggered upon proper notice. See, e.g., I.C. §§ 6-1.1-15-1.2(j), -3(b), (d); Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-5-(b), (c) (2018).

         ANALYSIS

         Belterra's Motion requests that the Court enforce its May 24, 2018, decision by ordering compliance with the instructions in its decision. (See Belterra's Mot. at 1, 6.) The Assessor has argued in opposition that 1) the Indiana Board's Order on Remand was the "final disposition" of Belterra's case and Belterra was therefore appealing a claim for refund both prematurely and in the wrong court; 2) if the Indiana Board's Order on Remand was not a final disposition, Belterra's remedy was with the Indiana Board, not the Tax Court; or 3) the Court's jurisdiction was never invoked because the Indiana Board's Order on Remand did not use the words "refer" or "referral" specifically used under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-8. (See Assessor's Br. at 4-9.)

         1.

         The Assessor first argues that the Indiana Board's Order on Remand or the purported assignment of final assessed values was the final disposition of the case, thereby converting the matter to a claim for refund that is properly resolved by a court of general jurisdiction in Switzerland County. (Assessor's Br. at 4-6; Assessor's Surreply at 2 ¶ 4.) The Assessor, however, did not present any evidence that either was a final disposition and Belterra was not provided notice that included its appeal rights - a necessary component of a final disposition. (Compare Assessor's Surreply, Exs. A, B and Belterra's Mot., Ex. 3 with I.C. §§ 6-1.1-15-1.2(j), -3(b), (d); I.C. § 6-1.1-15-5-(b), (c) and Resp't Reply [Assessor's Surreply] at 3 (where Belterra asserts it never received any notice of appeal rights).) Accordingly, this matter is still in the Court-ordered remand phase and has not reached the point of final disposition. This Court - like every other court in this State - retains jurisdiction over its cases until their final disposition (which includes the enforcement of its own orders, judgments, and decrees). See, e.g., Fackler v. Powell, 839 N.E.2d 165, 167 (Ind. 2005); Skendzel v. Marshall, 330 N.E.2d 747, ...


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