Tax Court: Scanty evidence fails to lower property value

The Indiana Tax Court affirmed an Indiana Board of Tax Review’s determination that evidence presented to reduce a property’s assessment of improvements was not probative of the property’s 2016 market value-in-use.

Garrett LLC acquires, remediates and resells contaminated properties. In June 2014, Garrett purchased a longtime vacated property in Kendallville whose soil and ground water contained chlorinated solvents and metal contamination.

In a March 2015 assessment, the property was valued at $200,000; $68,900 for the land and $131,100 for improvements. Garrett subsequently transferred 4.75 acres of the property to another company and demolished all the buildings on the portion of the property it retained.

Garrett appealed the property’s 2016 total assessed value of $105,400; $95,400 for the land and $10,000 for the improvements. In that appeal, the Indiana Board concluded that Garrett had provided undisputed probative evidence for reducing the 2016 assessment of improvements. But it ultimately found Garrett’s evidence was not probative of the property’s 2016 market value-in-use, and therefore left the land valuation unchanged.

In Garrett LLC v. Noble County Assessor, 49T10-1712-TA-22, Garrett claimed the Indiana Board’s final determination was an abuse of discretion, arbitrary and capricious, and unsupported by substantial evidence because it failed to find Garrett’s evidence of the property’s 2014 sales price, comparable properties, and the agreed land value for the 2015 assessment date probative of the property’s 2016 market value-in-use.

The Indiana Tax Court found that instead of pointing to evidence in the record that related the 2014 sale price to the appropriate valuation date, Garrett implied that showing the relationship was unnecessary because “[e]ighteen months is not a significant period for a property that sat vacant and unusable for a half a decade.” The Tax Court found that Garrett’s “bald assertion” lacked cited authority and an evidentiary basis.

Additionally, the tax court found that Garrett failed to clearly show the Indiana Board how the evidence of three comparable properties substantiated Garrett’s claims of a lower value.

In its evidence, Garrett submitted property tax records for two of three comparative properties, as well a one-page summary of all three properties listing them as “eyesores” that failed to sell at tax sales.

But the Tax Court concluded Garrett’s evidence was scanty, and therefore not probative for lack of evidence, explanation, and analysis comparing the properties to the subject property. It also noted Garrett did not explain how any differences may have affected determining the subject property’s market value-in-use.

“The Court has repeatedly reminded parties that they must walk the Indiana Board, and this Court, through every element of their analyses,” Judge Martha Wentworth wrote. “This did not happen here … Garrett provided so little information about these three properties that the Indiana Board had to infer the reason it was presented.”

Finally, Garrett argued that its land could not be worth more in 2016 than its 2015 assessed value of $68,900 because the land was contaminated on both assessment dates and had fewer acres to assess in 2016 than in 2015.

Again, the tax court found that Garrett provided no analysis to relate the earlier value to the later assessment date. In its decision, the Tax Court noted that it would “follow its long-held precedent that each tax year stands alone for property tax assessment administrative and judicial appeals” and refrain from following Garrett “down the rabbit hole.”

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