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Court affirms higher home assessment as compared to neighbors

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The Indiana Tax Court Thursday affirmed the 2007 assessment of a property in an upscale community on Lake Michigan, rejecting the homeowner’s argument that the assessment should be lower because surrounding homes were assessed at a lower ratio when taking into account the prices at which the homes were sold.

William Thorsness appealed the $1,647,800 assessment of the property he purchased on Jan. 31, 2007, for $1.65 million. He argued that his assessment should be reduced to $1,311,750, which is 79.5 percent of the purchase price. He came up with this percentage after looking at six other residential properties in his neighborhood and found, on average, they were assessed at 79.5 percent of their recent sale prices.

The Indiana Board of Tax Review affirmed the assessment, finding Thorsness’ “ratio study” didn’t meet the criteria for ratio studies.  Because of that, it was not probative in demonstrating that his property was inequitably or non-uniformly assessed.

He appealed in February 2011, and the Tax Court heard arguments in August 2011.

In William W. Thorsness v. Porter County Assessor, 49T10-1102-TA-14, Thorsness claimed the tax board erred in determining that he, and not the assessor, bore the burden of proof at the administrative hearing. Second, he claimed that the board erred in determining that his evidence was not probative in demonstrating that the assessor’s assessment lacked uniformity.

In 2009, the General Assembly established an exception to the rule that a taxpayer always bears the burden of proof when challenging property tax assessments – I.C. 6-1.1-15-1(p), “the burden-shifting rule.” The exception occurs when the assessed value increases by more than five percent over the preceding assessment date.

“[T]he Indiana Board’s mistake does not constitute reversible error in this case because the burden-shifting rule contained in Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-1(p) (and its progeny) applies only to valuation challenges, not to uniform and equal constitutional challenges for the following reasons,” Judge Martha Blood Wentworth wrote.

She noted that while Thorsness’ data on his neighbors’ assessments is relevant, the board didn’t err in determining it was not probative in demonstrating that his property was assessed and taxed at a level that exceeded the common level within the township overall. The standards outlined by the Department of Local Government Finance require a statistical measure of assessment uniformity must be calculated for the entire taxing district and each stratum therein.
 

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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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