Bushmann, LLC v. Bartholomew Cnty. Assessor, 21T-TA-00027

Citation21T-TA-00027
Case DateApril 08, 2022
CourtTax Court of Indiana

BUSHMANN, LLC, Petitioner,
v.

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY ASSESSOR, Respondent.

No. 21T-TA-00027

Tax Court of Indiana

April 8, 2022


ON APPEAL FROM A FINAL DETERMINATION OF THE INDIANA BOARD OF TAX REVIEW

ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONER: MELISSA G. MICHIE TAX CONSULTANTS, INC. Columbus, IN

ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT: MARILYN S. MEIGHEN ATTORNEY AT LAW Carmel, IN BRIAN A. CUSIMANO ATTORNEY AT LAW Indianapolis, IN

WENTWORTH, J.

Bushmann, LLC challenges the Indiana Board of Tax Review's final determination that its appeals for a correction of error for the 2016 through 2018 tax years were not timely filed. Upon review, the Court reverses the Indiana Board's final determination.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

During the years at issue, Bushmann owned a 61, 855 square foot parcel of land in Columbus, Indiana. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 48-53.) A convenience store and gas

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station were situated on the land. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 48-53.) In both 2016 and 2017, the property was assigned a total assessed value of $1, 266, 500 ($804, 100 for land and $462, 400 for improvements). (Cert. Admin. R. at 50, 52, 142.) In 2018, however, the property's assessment increased to $1, 472, 500 ($999, 000 for land and $473, 500 for improvements). (Cert. Admin. R. at 48, 142.)

Believing that its 2018 land assessment was incorrect, Buschmann filed an appeal on September 3, 2019, seeking to correct "[a] clerical, mathematical, or typographical mistake." (Cert. Admin. R. at 18-19.) On January 7, 2020, Bushmann filed two additional appeals for a correction of error, alleging that its 2016 and 2017 land assessments were also the result of "[a] clerical, mathematical, or typographical mistake." (See Cert. Admin. R. at 5-6, 11-12.) That same day, the Bartholomew County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals ("PTABOA") conducted a hearing on all three appeals. (Cert. Admin. R. at 4, 10, 17.) The following week, the PTABOA denied Bushmann's appeals. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 3-4.)

On February 18, 2020, Bushmann sought review with the Indiana Board, electing to have its appeals heard pursuant to the Indiana Board's small claims procedures. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 1-2.) On February 23, 2021, the Indiana Board conducted a hearing on all three appeals during which Bushmann claimed (via its tax representative) that its 2016 through 2018 land assessments were incorrect because the Bartholomew County Assessor did not apply the base rate as set forth in the county's land order[1] to value the land. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 141-43.) Bushmann maintained that the county's

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land order established that its land was to be assessed at $10 per square foot for all three years, but instead its land was assessed at $13 per square foot in 2016 and 2017 and at $19 per square foot in 2018. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 143-48, 151-52.) To support its claim that its land was incorrectly assessed, Bushmann presented, among other things, a copy of an email that contained the county's purported land order. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 47, 144, 147.) Bushmann explained that to correct the math errors in its land assessments it simply multiplied the square footage of its land (i.e., 61, 855) by the correct base rate (i.e., $10) and arrived at land assessments of $618, 600 for the years at issue. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 145, 148, 150-51.) (See also Cert. Admin. R. at 47-53.)

In response, the Assessor asserted that Bushmann's appeals should be denied because she used the correct base rate to value its land during the years at issue. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 155-59.) The Assessor maintained that Bushmann's purported land order merely contained a proposed base rates of $10 rather than the actual base rate that was to be applied to its land during the years at issue. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 156-57.) In addition, the Assessor claimed that Bushmann filed the wrong type of appeals because the errors it was complaining about, i.e., whether the correct base rate was used to value its land, raised only subjective errors regarding the valuation of its land. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 157-59.)

On June 21, 2021, the Indiana Board issued a final determination finding that Bushmann's appeals for a correction of an error were untimely because even though it "checked the box indicating that it was alleging a clerical, mathematical, or typographical mistake," it was "fundamentally challenging the assessed value of its property." (Cert. Admin. R. at 138 ¶¶ 15-16.) As such, the Indiana Board explained that Bushmann should

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have filed its appeals within the 45-day statutory deadline for challenging its property's assessed value, not the extended three-year deadline applicable for challenging math errors. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 138-39 ¶¶ 15-24.) Consequently, the Indiana Board found that Bushmann's land assessments should remain at $804, 100 for 2016 and 2017 and $999, 000 for 2018. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 140 ¶ 25.)

On July 29, 2021, Bushmann initiated this original tax appeal. After the matter was fully briefed on November 23, 2021, the Court took the case under advisement. Additional facts will be supplied when necessary.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The party seeking to reverse an Indiana Board final determination bears the burden of demonstrating its invalidity. Hatke v. Potter, 173 N.E.3d 728, 729 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2021). Thus, to prevail in its appeal, Bushmann must demonstrate to the Court that the Indiana Board's final determination is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law; contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity; in excess of or short of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations; without observance of the procedure required by law; or unsupported by substantial or reliable evidence. See Ind. Code § 33-26-6-6(e)(1)-(5) (2022).

LAW

When Bushmann filed its three appeals for a correction of error with the PTABOA in 2019 and 2020, Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-1.1(a) authorized taxpayers like Bushmann to initiate appeals of real property assessments by filing a written notice on a form designated by the Department of Local Government Finance with their township or county assessor. See Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-1.1(a) (2019). (See also, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 5-6

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(the "Taxpayer's Notice to Initiate an Appeal" ("Form 130")).) A...

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