Tax Court upholds 2018 assessment of Jackson Co. property

Jackson County homeowners who claimed to be victims of an abusive tax assessment system could not convince the Indiana Tax Court that a 2018 valuation of their home was incorrect.

Mathew and Vanessa DuSablon own a home on 10.28 acres of land just outside of Seymour. Their home, purchased for $380,000 in 2014, was assessed at $372,000 for the 2018 tax year, an amount the couple appealed to the Jackson County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals and ultimately had reduced to $364,300.

Still dissatisfied, the DuSablons sought review with the Indiana Board of Tax Review. There, Jackson County assessor Katie Kaufman presented an appraisal report, along with the testimony of its preparer, Richard Borges, an Indiana certified general appraiser and member of the Appraisal Institute. That report found the home to be valued at $400,000, an amount determined by Borges using a sales comparison approach that evaluated the sales of three comparable properties near the subject property.

However, the DuSablons argued their assessment was the product of bias because they had for years had to contact the assessor to correct mistakes on the property record card; that no improvements had been made to their property that justified any assessment increase; and that when the PTABOA reduced their assessment, much of the form it used was incomplete, among other things.

In a final determination, the Indiana board upheld the assessor’s appraisal after finding that it used a generally accepted valuation methodology and that the DuSablons failed to present any evidence to show what they believed the proper valuation of their property should be.

The Indiana Tax Court affirmed the final determination in Mathew R. DuSablon and Vanessa A. DuSablon v. Katie Kaufman, in her official capacity as the Jackson County Assessor, 20T-TA-4, finding that the DuSablons did not show that the assessment of $364,300 was improper.

First, the Tax Court held that the DuSablons’ claim that Borges was biased and therefore not credible “remains a mere allegation.” Also, it concluded that the couple failed to demonstrate that the Indiana board acted against the logic of the facts and circumstances before it when it concluded Borges was a credible witness.

“Moreover, the DuSablons have not shown the Court that the Indiana Board contravened any law when it determined that Borges was a credible witness. Indeed, they have not pointed to any law or authoritative source that would support their allegation that Borges was prohibited from appraising their property or from testifying about his appraisal. … This failure is fatal to their claim,” Senior Judge Thomas G. Fisher wrote.

Fisher likewise held that the DuSablons did not successfully discredit Borges’ appraisal report, finding the DuSablons did not demonstrate that Borges was wrong. Rather, the Tax Court said they demonstrated that, for the most part, they either did not understand his appraisal descriptions or simply disagreed with them.

Second, Fisher concluded the DuSablons did not demonstrate that they discredited Borges’ appraisal report simply because of the way he described or listed their property. Neither did the judge find persuasive the DuSablons’ argument that they successfully discredited Borges’ appraisal report by demonstrating that the properties he relied on in his sales comparison approach were not truly comparable to their property.

Finally, the Tax Court noted that as the certified administrative record reveals, the DuSablons’ evidence indicated there were four residential properties – three in their township and one in a neighboring township – that were assessed and taxed at a lower percentage of market value-in-exchange than their property.

“While this evidence is no doubt relevant, the Indiana Board did not err in determining that those four properties were insufficient to demonstrate that the DuSablons’ property was assessed and taxed at a level that exceeded the common level within their township overall,” Fisher wrote.

“The Court understands that the DuSablons are frustrated with how the property tax system has worked and that they believe their complaints have fallen upon deaf ears,” he concluded. “Nonetheless, they have not shown that their assessment of $364,300 was improper.”

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