Judge rejects petitioners’ requests to prevent tax collection

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Because petitioners seeking to enjoin the collection of tax filed their petitions before an original tax appeal was initiated, the Indiana Tax Court granted Marion County’s motions to dismiss.

Judge Martha Wentworth issued two orders Friday dealing with the same issue: the petitioners, before the Indiana Board of Tax Review had scheduled a hearing or ruled on the matters, filed their petitions asking the Tax Court to enjoin the collection of property taxes.

Washington Park Cemetery Association Inc. challenged the removal of an exemption previously applied to its Community Life Center, effective with the March 1, 2012, assessment. The entire complex had received an exemption from property taxes, including the life center. It was removed because special events, such as weddings, were sometimes held at the location.

West Ohio II LLC filed its petition asking the Tax Court to enjoin the collection of property taxes related to a disputed portion of its $39,314,000 assessment for March 1, 2013. West Ohio believed the property – a multi-tenant building and parking garage in Indianapolis – was substantially overvalued.

The same arguments were raised in both petitions, which involve the same attorneys on both cases: that the language “will raise” in I.C. 33-26-6-2(b)(1) allows for injunctive relief before an original tax appeal has been initiated; that the nature of preliminary injunctive relief typically seeks an order from the court before the full presentation of evidence and not after; and that the Tax Court should follow its holding in American Trucking Associations Inc. v. Indiana, 512 N.E.2d 920 (Ind. Tax. Ct. 1987).

But no relief can be granted because neither petitioner has filed an original tax appeal, Wentworth held. As such, the court does not have subject matter jurisdiction to rule on the petitions. In both cases, she granted the motion to dismiss filed by the Marion County assessor, treasurer and auditor.

She noted in a footnote that the principle established in American Trucking regarding the Tax Court’s subject matter jurisdiction was ultimately challenged and disposed of in another case by an original action with the Indiana Supreme Court in 1990.

“Because the Supreme Court issued an alternative writ of prohibition in that case barring the Tax Court from exercising subject matter jurisdiction without stating its rationale or publishing the writ, the parties debated its precedential value in this case. Nonetheless, the Court need not determine the effect of the  Supreme Court’s writ because it now comes to the opposite opinion regarding subject matter jurisdiction than that in American Trucking,” she wrote.

The cases are Washington Park Cemetery Association, Inc. v. Marion County Assessor, Marion County Treasurer, and Marion County Auditor, 49T10-1404-TA-10, and West Ohio II, LLC v. Marion County Assessor, Marion County Treasurer, and Marion County Auditor, 49T10-1404-TA-9.



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