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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. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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