Tax Court upholds Elkhart CVS store assessment

A CVS pharmacy store in Elkhart could not persuade the Indiana Tax Court to rule in its favor in an appeal of the Indiana Board of Tax Review’s final determination of its property value.

The Elkhart County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals valued a CVS property located at 104 West Hively Avenue in Elkhart for the 2012 through 2015 assessments at $1,030,600; $1,090,700; $1,118,200; and $1,106,200. After appealing those values as too high, CVS’s certified appraiser valued the subject property at a final value of $800,000 for 2012; $840,000 for 2013; $850,000 for 2014; and $890,000 for 2015. Contrasting both assessments with much higher values, the assessor’s appraiser came to a final value of $1.79 million for 2012; $1.8 million for 2013; $1.81 million for 2014; and $1.82 million for 2015.

In its final determination, the Indiana Board found that the sales comparison and income approaches presented in both appraisal reports contained so many flaws that they were unpersuasive, if not completely unreliable. It concluded that CVS’s approach was more persuasive than the assessor’s; however, it found the portion of CVS’s cost approach that accounted for the presence of external obsolescence “entirely unsupported.”

CVS appealed, arguing the Indiana Board’s final determination was contrary to law because it is not based on evidence in the administrative record. Tax Court Judge Martha Wentworth first found the Indiana Board did not act contrary to law when it adopted its valuation of the subject property based solely on the cost approach, refusing to reverse its final determination on that basis.

“CVS is correct that the Indiana Board is required to adopt a value based exclusively on evidence in the administrative record, but in doing so, it is not bound to adopt the same weight afforded to the evidence the appraisers did in their Appraisal Reports,” Wentworth wrote. “Indeed, to find otherwise would not only make it impossible for the Indiana Board to carry out its duties as the trier of fact, but also would be contrary to its familiar, ubiquitous practice prescribed by statute.”

The tax court additionally concluded that substantial and reliable evidence supported the Indiana Board’s determination that the subject property did not suffer from external obsolescence. On a final note, it concluded the Indiana Board did not abuse its discretion, affirming the final determination in CVS Corporation v. Cathy Searcy, in her official capacity as Elkhart County Assessor, 18T-TA-18.

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