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Tax Court : Assessor’s petition not untimely, non-compliant

January 14, 2019

The Indiana Tax Court has denied an Indianapolis business and arts center’s motion to dismiss an assessor’s appeal, finding the assessor’s summons was not untimely or non-compliant.

In September 2018, the Indiana Board of Tax Review issued a final determination that permitted Stutz Business Center to withdraw its administrative appeal over the Marion County assessor’s objection. The assessor responded by filing a “Petition for Original Tax Appeal of a Final Determination of the Indiana Board of Tax Review,” which was provided to the clerk on Nov. 2. The clerk, in turn, mailed the summons to Stutz and received a return receipt on Nov. 9.

Then on Nov. 21, Stutz moved to dismiss the appeal, arguing first that the assessor’s failed to comply with requirements for initiating an appeal under Indiana Trial Rule 3 and Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-5(c). Specifically, Stutz argued that both provisions required the assessor to provide the clerk with the petition and a summons no later than Nov. 1, 2018, but he did not do so until Nov. 2, 2018.

But finding that the assessor was not untimely in his delivery of the summons, the Tax Court denied Stutz’s argument in Marion County Assessor v. Stutz Business Center, LLC,18T-TA-26.

In its decision, the court held that when trial rules are “clearly inconsistent” with the tax court rules, the more specific tax court rules take precedence.

“Accordingly, pursuant to Tax Court Rule 3 and Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-5(c), the Assessor was only required to file his Petition with the Tax Court and his notice of appeal with the Indiana Board within 45-days after the Indiana Board gave him notice of its final determination,” Judge Martha Wentworth wrote. “…The undisputed facts show that the Assessor’s Petition and notice of appeal were filed with the Tax Court and Indiana Board within the statutorily required 45-day period. Therefore, Stutz has not established that the Court lacks jurisdiction over the Assessor’s appeal on this basis.”

Stutz also argued assessor’s appeal should be dismissed because it failed to serve the petition directly on Stutz, thus failing to comply with statutory requirements under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-5 and Tax Court Rule 3(D). In contrast, the assessor maintained that because he caused the petition to be served on Stutz’s attorneys, as its agents, he perfected service in accordance with Trial Rule 4.6(A)(1).

The Tax Court ultimately found that the service of the petition to Stutz’s attorneys complied with the rules for establishing effective service because the service was reasonably calculated to inform Stutz of the initiation of the appeal, despite the assessor’s technical failure to comply with the trial rules.

“Like the Indiana Supreme Court’s function, this Court’s ‘function is to serve the truth and to decide legal issues, not clear [its] dockets by utilization of unnecessarily narrow technical interpretations’ of court procedural rules,” Wentworth concluded.

Thus, the court ordered the assessor to conventionally file a certified copy of the administrative record simultaneously with his e-filed brief no later than 30 days after the date of the Jan. 11 order, and ordered Stutz to file its response brief no later than 30 days after the date the assessor’s brief is due. Also, Wentworth wrote that the assessor may file a reply brief no later than 15 days after the date Stutz’s response brief is due.

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