Appeal of 2018 tax assessment was timely, but Bartholomew Co. property owner not entitled to change in assessment, Tax Court rules

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A Bartholomew County property owner timely filed an appeal of their 2018 land assessment, but the Indiana Board of Tax Review’s order to not change the property’s assessed value should stand, the Indiana Tax Court affirmed Wednesday.

According to court records, Camelot Company LLC owns a convenience store and gas station, and the 44,627 square feet of land upon which they are located, in Columbus.

For the 2017 assessment year, Camelot’s land was assigned a value of $803,300.

In February 2018, the Bartholomew County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals conducted a meeting at which it voted to approve the 2018 Bartholomew County land order. That order changed the classification assigned to Camelot’s land and increased its base rate value from $18 per square foot to $19 per square foot.

The Bartholomew County assessor mailed Camelot a Form 11 Notice of Assessment indicating that effective with the Jan. 1, 2018, assessment date, the value of Camelot’s land had increased to $847,900.

In September 2019, Camelot filed an appeal seeking to correct “[a] clerical, mathematical, or typographical mistake.” Camelot alleged that its land was valued using the wrong land order.

The board of appeals conducted a hearing on the appeal and denied Camelot’s request for relief.

Camelot sought review of the decision with the Indiana Board of Tax Review, electing to have its appeal heard as a small claims case.

In November 2020, the tax review board conducted a hearing on Camelot’s appeal.

At the hearing, Camelot suggested that its land value for the 2018 tax year should be $8 per square foot — the value purportedly indicated under Bartholomew County’s 2011 land order.

In response, the assessor asserted that Camelot was not entitled to any relief because its appeal was untimely. Specifically, the assessor said the “error” Camelot was complaining about — whether the correct land order, and thus the correct base rate, was used to value its land — involved a subjective issue, not an objective one, meaning the appeal had to have been filed within 45 days of the Form 11 Notice.

The assessor also argued it was appropriate for her to use the land order that was approved in February 2018 to value Camelot’s land as of Jan. 1, 2018.

In its final determination, the tax review board determined Camelot’s appeal was untimely because even though it “checked the box … to indicate it was alleging a clerical, mathematical, or typographical mistake,” it was actually challenging the assessed value of its property.

The board also ruled that Camelot did not meet its burden of proof and ordered “no change” to Camelot’s 2018 land assessment of $847,900.

Camelot appealed, and the Indiana Tax Court reversed the determination that Camelot’s appeal was not timely filed. However, the Tax Court affirmed the board’s ultimate determination that Camelot is not entitled to a change in its 2018 land assessment.

Senior Judge Margret Robb wrote the opinion.

Robb pointed to Muir Woods Section One Association, Inc. v. O’Connor, 172 N.E.3d 1205 (Ind. 2021), where the Indiana Supreme Court evaluated whether the claim that an assessor failed to apply a certain base rate discount when calculating the assessed value of common area land was an objective error that could be raised under the now-defunct Form 133 correction of error process.

“In this case, similar to the appeal in Muir Woods, the question presented for resolution involves an objective application of a land order,” Robb wrote. “… Classifying Camelot’s appeal as one that challenges an objective error is critical due to the differing time limitations for appealing an objective error versus a subjective error.

“… In 2017, the Legislature passed Senate Enrolled Act No. 386, which revised the property assessment appeal process by (1) repealing Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-1 that required the use of the former Form 130 to challenge subjective errors in assessments, (2) repealing Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-12 that required the use of a Form 133 to challenge objective errors in assessments, (3) adopting Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-1.1 that required the use of a single form to challenge both subjective and objective errors in assessments (i.e., the revised Form 130), and (4) adding a three-year statute of limitations for filing a correction of error appeal,” Robb continued.

“… There is no dispute that Camelot’s appeal was initiated using the revised Form 130 correction of error appeal procedure. There is also no dispute that Camelot filed its appeal for a correction of error within three years of when the taxes on its 2018 assessment was first due. Accordingly, the Indiana Board erred in finding that Camelot’s appeal was not timely filed.”

But the Tax Court disagreed with Camelot’s argument that it was entitled to a change in its 2018 land assessment.

Robb wrote that the evidence contained in the certified administrative record demonstrated that Bartholomew County’s 2015-2018 reassessment plan, as approved by the Department of Local Government Finance, required the assessor to submit her land values to the appeals board “during the 4th year” of that reassessment cycle, meaning 2018.

“Camelot acknowledges that the Assessor submitted her land values to the PTABOA in accordance with that reassessment plan,” Robb wrote.

Further, Camelot did not demonstrate that state law prohibited the assessor from using the Bartholomew County land order that was “approved” by the appeals board in February 2018 to value its land as of the Jan. 1, 2018, assessment date.

“Accordingly, Camelot has not demonstrated that it is entitled to a change in its land assessment for that tax year,” Robb concluded.

The case is Camelot Company, LLC v. Bartholomew County Assessor, 21T-TA-11.

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