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Clarifications of statute still keep burden of proof on county assessor

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A county assessor’s attempt to shift the burden of proof onto a landowner in a dispute over a property assessment that increased more than 5 percent failed to convince the Indiana Tax Court.

In Orange County Assessor v. James E. Stout, 49T10-1112-TA-94, the Tax Court affirmed the finding by the Indiana Board of Tax Review that the assessor bore the burden of proving that Stout’s land assessment was proper.

The assessor appealed, claiming the board incorrectly applied the 2011 statute to an assessment that was made for the 2009 tax year. The review board used Indiana Code 6-1.1-15-17 to find the assessor had to prove the assessment that had increased more than 5 percent in one year was proper. Stout’s assessed value ballooned from $8,000 in 2008 to $45,600 in 2009.

Dismantling the assessor’s appeal, the Tax Court pointed out two reasons why the argument failed.  

First, the Tax Court rejected the claim that I.C. 6-1.1-15-17 is not a new statute. The General Assembly established the assessor had the burden of proof in 2009. It subsequently clarified the statute in 2011 but still gave the assessor the burden of proof.

Second, the Tax Court did not agree with the assessor’s contention that for I.C. 6-1.1-15-17 to apply, the assessment and appeal must have occurred after the statute’s effective date.

The Tax Court held the 2009 and 2011 statutes both indicate the burden of proof shifts from the taxpayer to an assessing office when the taxpayer files an appeal to an assessment that increases by more than 5 percent from one year to the next.

“This shift in burden of proof applies to the process and procedure of appeals alone, not to the mechanics of valuing property as of a certain assessment date,” Judge Martha Wentworth wrote. “Accordingly, the statutes apply to all pending appeals regardless of assessment dates.”

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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