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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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