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Tax Court sidesteps first-impression issue

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Although the Indiana Tax Court had the opportunity to address an issue of first impression, it decided to save its analysis of the issue for another day because the case could be resolved on other grounds.

The opportunity arose in Big Foot Stores LLC v. Franklin Township Assessor, et al., Nos. 49T10-0712-TA-74, -75, -76, and -77. Big Foot appealed the Indiana Board of Tax Review's final determinations that upheld the 2003 interim assessments of three of Big Foot's convenience stores and an office building in Grant County. The assessors believed the properties were undervalued and reassessed them. As a result, the assessments on the properties jumped more than $200,000 each.

Tax Judge Thomas Fisher found the tax board didn't err when it determined the assessors' interim assessments were authorized under Indiana Code Section 6-1.1-9-1.

Big Foot argued the assessments were improper because they were "sales chasing" or "spot assessments" because Big Foot's stores were the only ones to be reassessed because they had been sold. Whether interim assessments of two recently sold classes of property may be upheld when unsold properties of the same classifications and within the same taxing jurisdiction were not reassessed is one of first impression in Indiana.

But instead of analyzing that issue, Judge Fisher resolved the appeal using established caselaw. The assessors needed to provide some explanation as to how the June 19, 2002, and July 16, 2003, sales prices of Big Foot's properties were related to their values as of Jan. 1, 1999, the appropriate valuation date for the 2003 tax year.

The assessors made no showing, so the tax board erred in upholding Big Foot's 2003 interim assessments because they were based on market value-in-use evidence which had no probative value with respect to the appropriate valuation date, wrote Judge Fisher.

He remanded it to the tax board so that it may instruct the appropriate assessing officials to reinstate the assessed values assigned to Big Foot's properties during the 2002 tax year.

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