Tax Court: JW Marriott’s appeal in 8-year-old assessment case premature

The owner of the downtown Indianapolis JW Marriott Hotel prematurely appealed its 2010 real property assessment with the Indiana Tax Court because a lower reviewing authority had not yet been given its full statutory time to review the matter, the Indiana Tax Court ruled Friday.

Convention Headquarters Hotels, LLC, which owns the downtown JW, filed an appeal with the Marion County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals in November 2010 after the county assessor increased CHH’s 2010 assessment from $18,479,100 to $86,987,100 the previous month. The hotel company challenged the assessment on the grounds of several constitutional violations, including violations of the federal Equal Protection Clause and the state Property Taxation and Equal Privileges and Immunities clauses.

The county appeals board took no action on the matter, and seven years later the Indiana Board of Tax Review followed suit when CHH sought review with the state board in June 2017. Thus, CHH then filed a petition for judicial review with the Tax Court in May 2018, alleging, among other things, that the appeal was properly brought before the court under Indiana Code section 6-1.1-15-4 and -5.

After the case was removed to federal court and remanded to the Tax Court, the state court ordered the parties to file briefing on the issue of subject matter jurisdiction. The issue, Judge Martha Wentworth wrote Friday, is whether the Indiana Board’s failure to hold a hearing or provide a notice of final determination on CHH’s appeal gave the hotel company the right to appeal its case to the Tax Court.

Wentworth ultimately answered that question negatively, noting I.C. 6-1.1-15-5(g) holds that parties may seek judicial review if “the maximum time elapses for the Indiana Board to give notice of its final determination … .” Section 6-1.1-15-4 likewise allows a party to petition for judicial review if the Indiana Board does not make its final determination “within he time allowed … .”

Further, section 6-1.1-15-4 gives the board nine months to conduct a hearing and 90 days after the hearing to make a final determination, unless an extension is granted. But under I.C. 6-1.1-15-5(d), a failure to hold a hearing within nine months of a petition’s filing “does not constitution notice to the party of an Indiana board final determination.”

Given those time limits and historical readings of the statutes in question, Wentworth said she would have jurisdiction to hear CHH’s appeal if the company’s petition for judicial review was filed no earlier than one year after its appeal with the Indiana Board was filed in June 2017. Because CHH filed its petition with the Tax Court in May 2018, the court does not yet have subject matter jurisdiction over the appeal.

“Consequently, the Court must dismiss this appeal and remand the matter to the Indiana Board for action consistent with this opinion,” Wentworth wrote. “Finally, once the maximum time for the Indiana Board to give notice of tis final determination lapses (i.e., 366 days after CHH filed its Form 131 petition), CHH may once again seek direct review in the Tax Court.”

The case is Convention Headquarters Hotels, LLC v. Marion County Assessor, 18T-TA-14

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