Koplar v. State Tax Commission

Decision Date09 March 1959
Docket NumberNo. 1,Nos. 46616-46629,s. 46616-46629,1
Citation321 S.W.2d 686
PartiesIda KOPLAR, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. STATE TAX COMMISSION et al., Defendants-Appellants, and thirteen other cases
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

James L. Williams, Jackson County Counselor, Robert A. Sniezek, Asst. County Counselor, Kansas City, for appellants, Jackson County Court, Clerk and Collector, Jackson County Court House, Kansas City, Missouri.

Robert L. Hecker, Morrison, Hecker, Buck, Cozad & Rogers, Ilus W. Davis, John H. Windsor, Jr., Dietrich, Tyler, Davis, Burrell & Dicus, Kansas City, for respondents.

DALTON, Judge.

This consolidated case involves fourteen separate appeals from orders and judgments of the Circuit Court of Jackson County setting aside decisions of the State Tax Commission with reference to the assessed valuation of certain specifically described real estate. The assessments were made as of January 1, 1956, and involve fourteen separate pieces of real property (land and improvements) in Kansas City, Jackson County. The respective owners of the mentioned properties contended that the county assessor's 1956 assessments of these properties were unconstitutionally and unlawfully discriminatory in that said properties were intentionally, arbitrarily and systematically overvalued as compared with the valuation of other real property in Jackson County. Obtaining no relief by successive appeals to the Jackson County Board of Equalization and to the State Tax Commission, the said owners of the mentioned properties sought judicial review of said decisions of the State Tax Commission in the Circuit Court of Jackson County where the relief sought was, for the most part, granted. The Circuit Court in its several judgments made its own findings as to the value of the respective properties and as to the assessments that should be placed upon each particular tract and further ordered the State Tax Commission to modify its decisions accordingly. Defendants have appealed to this court from the orders and judgments so entered in favor of the property owners, respondents herein.

This court has jurisdiction of the appeals because the cases involve the construction of the revenue laws of this state. Art. V. Sec. 3, Const. of Mo.1945, V.A.M.S.; May Department Stores Co. v. State Tax Commission, Mo.Sup., 308 S.W.2d 748; State ex rel. Lindell Tower Apartments v. Guise, 357 Mo. 50, 206 S.W.2d 320.

Each of the respective properties herein involved had been assessed by the assessor of Jackson County for taxation purposes and their respective values had been fixed and determined as of January 1, 1955 for the year 1955 and, subsequently, as of January 1, 1956 for the year 1956. The 1956 assessments made material increases over the 1955 assessments. The increases were made by the assessor after the receipt of a letter from the State Tax Commission (hereinafter referred to) stating that the assessed valuation of Jackson County would have to be increased ten percent in order to meet certain minimum requirements of said Commission. The owners of the respective properties contend that the assessment of each property, 'with or without the 1956 increase, was and is unlawfully discriminatory.'

After the assessments of January 1, 1956, were entered on the tax books of the assessor, the respective owners of the several properties here involved took appeals, as stated, to the Jackson County Board of Equalization, which board, while in session pursuant to law, reviewed the several appeals from the assessor's valuations for assessment purposes as of January 1, 1956, and, except in one instance hereinafter referred to, the Board affirmed all assessments as entered by the county assessor.

Thereafter, as stated, the respective owners of the several properties made timely and proper appeals to the State Tax Commission. Section 138.430 RSMo 1949, V.A.M.S. A separate appeal was taken by the owner of each specific property here involved. Each owner complained of the 1956 valuation of his property for tax purposes. Twelve of these cases so taken on appeal to the State Tax Commission involve the assessed valuation of downtown office building properties in Kansas City. Respondents say that the basic issues and contentions in all of these cases are the same and that, 'in general', they can be presented and considered without reference to the specific facts relating to specific properties, which specific facts will be later summarized. Hearings on the several appeals were thereafter ordered and a single hearing had before the Commission. It was agreed that a single record would be made which would be 'applicable to all of these cases,' supplemented by certain matters applicable only to particular cases. The Commission, thereafter, issued its notices of decisions and fixed the valuation of the respective properties for tax purposes. All assessments entered by the Jackson County Board of Equalization were affirmed, except as to one of the properties (the one instance heretofore mentioned), where the assessment of the particular property was further reduced.

Thereafter, petitions for review of the several decisions of the Commission with reference to the valuations of the several properties for tax purposes were duly filed in the Circuit Court of Jackson County under the 'Administrative Procedure and Review Act,' Chap. 536, RSMo 1949, V.A.M.S.; Section 22, Art. V, Const. of Mo. 1945. Transcripts of all proceedings before the Commission on the several appeals from the Jackson County Board of Equalization and of all evidence heard by the Commission were thereafter duly filed in the Circuit Court of Jackson County.

Only the property owners, respondents on the present appeals, offered any evidence in the hearing before the State Tax Commission. No evidence was offered in support of the original assessments, or as affirmed and modified by the Jackson County Board of Equalization. Some of the evidence heard by the Commission was applicable to all the cases and some was applicable only to specific cases. The evidence applicable to all cases tended to show that the Commission had estimated that the average ratio of assessments (in aggregate values) for Jackson County prior to January 1, 1956, was 27.2 percent of the considered or market value of all real property. As to the value of such evidence for certain purposes see May Department Stores Co. v. State Tax Commission, Mo.Sup., 308 S.W.2d 748, 761(17). The Commission had also determined that for the purpose of equalization among counties 30% of market value was a minimum figure it would accept. In order to equalize the assessments in said county at approximately 30 percent of value, as a minimum figure, the Commission had advised the assessing officials of Jackson County to raise valuations for 1956 in said county approximately $60,000,000 or to make about a 10 percent increase for the county as a whole (in the aggregate), so as to comply with the 'Commission's program for equalizing property assessed valuations between Missouri counties.' It was said, however, that 'the Commission has not attempted to deviate from what the true value of real property is and the basis for assessment is still, and always has been, true value.' There was evidence that, at the time the mentioned letter was received by said assessor, a major portion of the assessment books for 1956 had been made up, but by increasing assessments upon certain properties in the downtown and industrial areas, the assessor was able to increase the assessed valuation of real property in Jackson County by approximately $20,000,000. No increases in residential property, farm land or other real estate in the county were made. On behalf of the property owners, the county assessor testified that there was no set formula or plan for making the increases and the increases varied from 10 to 30%. Some properties were inspected but others were not. Of the approximately 180,000 parcels of real property on the assessment rolls of Jackson County, the assessments of only 200 or 250 pieces of property were increased after receipt of the said letter from the State Tax Commission. The increases were on properties the said assessor considered low in valuation for assessment purposes. It was the intention of the assessor to increase the assessment in one district generally and then to expend from district to district in future years in order to complete the ressessment of real property in the county. With the personnel then available such increases could be made in a three or four year period. No other evidence of what plans the assessor may have had was shown and the assessor stated that he had no fixed formula in making these increases.

The assessor further testified that the assessments on downtown properties should be around 50%, about 30% on older apartment properties, 28 to 40% on newer types of apartment properties, 23 to 25% on older houses. He further testified that the assessor endeavors to assess new residential property at about 33 to 35%, new apartment property at about 40%, and new office buildings at about 50%. He said that all of these percentages were with relation to current market value. The assessor admitted that he put a higher assessment 'on office space' than on anything else. The assessor also testified that the last general reassessment of real estate in Jackson County was 1940, and that there had not been any over-all survey or reappraisal of assessments since that time. That he was trying to get parcel by parcel, and will get parcel by parcel if given time.

The evidence also showed that there was a marked increase in the number of vacant square footage of rental office space in office buildings in downtown Kansas City; and that the downtown business area had felt the effect of the construction of over one million square feet of office space outside of the downtown area. The testimony presented by the property owners at the hearings...

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    ...v. State , 837 S.W.2d 1, 7 (Mo. banc 1992) ; Pohl v. State Highway Comm’n , 431 S.W.2d 99, 107 (Mo. banc 1968) ; Koplar v. State Tax Comm’n , 321 S.W.2d 686, 697 (Mo. 1959). These five cases, plaintiffs assert, show it is "perfectly ordinary" to enjoin the State itself to force compliance w......
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  • Judicial Views On Tax Administration
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly No. 16-1, March 1963
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