People ex rel. Reinhardt v. McRoberts

Decision Date19 May 1961
Docket NumberNo. 36313,36313
Citation174 N.E.2d 841,22 Ill.2d 282
PartiesPEOPLE ex rel. Leonard O. REINHARDT, County Collector, Appellant, v. James W. McROBERTS et al., Appellees.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

John M. Karns, State's Atty., East St. Louis, and Sam S. Pessin, Special Prosecutor, Belleville, for appellant.

John J. Hoban, East St. Louis, for appellees.


Plaintiff, the county collector of St. Clair County, prosecutes this direct appeal from a judgment of the circuit court of that county which found for defendants, James W. McRoberts and John J. Hoban, doing business as McRoberts and Hoban, in the plaintiff's suit to collect unpaid personal property taxes for the years 1951 through 1956, inclusive. Defendants were members of a law firm which was admittedly possessed of taxable personal property during the years in question, but in defense to the action they asserted that the assessment at local level was arbitrary and not based on a consideration or appraisal of their property, and that the multiplier supplied by the Illinois Department of Revenue to equalize assessed valuations was calculated and determined in such a manner as to make the assessments against their property fraudulent. We have jurisdiction because the revenue is involved.

The factual background from which the action arises shows that, in each of the years in question, the assessor did not 'call at the office, (or) place of doing business' and 'require * * * a correct statement of the taxable property' as provided in section 48 of the Revenue Act of 1939. (Ill.Rev.Stats.1951, 1953, 1955, chap. 120, par. 529.) Instead, as permitted by section 49 of the Revenue Act, the assessor mailed to defendants a printed blank schedule upon which to list their personal property. (Rev.Stats. par. 530.) Defendant concede that these schedules were received; however, they did not make out a list of their property, under oath, and return it to the assessor as section 51 of the Revenue Act requires. (Rev.Stats. par. 532.) As a result, and as authorized by section 54 in the absence of a sworn schedule, the assessor listed defendants' personal property 'according to his best knowledge, information and judgment, at its fair cash value,' and added to the valuation 'an amount equal to fifty per cent of such valuation.' (Rev.Stats., par. 535.) Thus, with the fifty per cent penalty, defendants' property was assessed at $960 for the years 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1954, and for the years 1955 and 1956, when defendants owned two automobiles, was assessed at $3005. The common multiplier, or equalization factor, furnished by the Department of Revenue raised these valuations to $1300 in the first four years, and to $4007 in the last two years. Local assessments were published annually but defendants filed no objections or complaints, nor did they pursue the administrative remedy for a review of the assessments accorded them by the Revenue Act. Their refusal to pay the taxes levied on the basis of the assessments described precipitated this action.

The law presumes that in fixing the value of property the taxing authorities have properly discharged their duties and that the tax is just. And where one objects to the valuation placed upon his property, he has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that an excessive valuation is the result of some improper, corrupt or illegal motive on the part of the assessing authorities, or that the valuation is so grossly excessive as to be constructively fraudulent. People ex rel. Smith v. Coen, 415 Ill. 73, 112 N.E.2d 119; People ex rel. Toman v. Marine Trust Co., 375 Ill. 488, 31 N.E.2d 933; People ex rel. Bracher v. Millard, 307 Ill. 556, 139 N.E. 113. Insofar as the conduct of the local assessing authorities is concerned proof of such nature has not been made in the present record and, moreover, defendants' utter failure to make a showing of the taxable property they possessed, and its value, precludes any determination of whether the assessments were either actually or constructively fraudulent.

To sustain their attack on the assessment. at local level defendants rely chiefly of the failure of the assessor or one of his deputies to visit their place of business and to require them to make a correct statement of their taxable property as provided by section 48 of the Revenue Act. It has long been held, however, that the failure of the assessor to personally call on persons for a list of their taxable property, as well as the failure to personally view real property, is merely an irregularity and is not sufficient to defeat the tax. Board of Supervisors of Dupage County v. Jenks, 65 Ill. 275, 287; and see: Grant Land Ass'n v. People ex rel. Hanberg, 213 Ill. 256, 259, 72 N.E. 804; People ex rel. Smith v. Coen, 415 Ill. 73, 79, 112 N.E.2d 119. The ratio decidendi is, of course, that ministerial officers cannot defeat the collection of taxes by such omissions, whether made wilfully or from carelessness. As stated in Dunham v. City of Chicago, 55 Ill. 357, at page 361: 'Such officers may make themselves amenable to the law, * * * but can not thus stop the wheels of government.' See also: Bistor v. McDonough, 348 Ill. 624, 635, 181 N.E. 417.

Nor does the record sustain defendants' claims that their property was arbitrarily assessed and that the assessments were not based on a consideration and appraisal of their property. We are not dealing here with persons who delivered a sworn schedule of their property to the assessor so that a normal assessment could be made, but with persons who wilfully refused and failed to file a schedule. In such case section 54 of the Revenue Act authorizes the assessor to list the property of such persons at its fair cash value 'according to his best knowledge, information and judgment.' The proof here shows that one assessor, who expressed the opinion that defendants' property had been assessed at full value, had personal knowledge of the property in defendants' office, and that, for the years 1955 and 1956, information concerning the ownership of automobiles supplied to the assessor by the Secretary of State was used in determining the assessments. Under the circumstances of this case, we cannot say that the assessor abused the broad discretion granted to him by section 54, nor, in the total absence of proof as to the taxable property actually possessed by defendants, and its value, can we say that the assessment figures arrived at were either actually or constructively fraudulent.

Looking next to defendants' attack upon the manner in which the Department of Revenue determined the multiplier, or equalization factor, for the years in question, it is to be noted that here again the presumption obtains...

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6 cases
  • People v. International Business Machines Corp.
    • United States
    • Illinois Supreme Court
    • February 19, 1982
    ... ... County of Cook (1974), 57 Ill.2d 318, 323, 312 N.E.2d 252; People ex rel. [89 Ill.2d 293] Nordlund v. S.B.A. Co. (1966), 34 Ill.2d 373, 376, 215 N.E.2d 233.) An ... Korzen (1973), 56 Ill.2d 101, 104, 306 N.E.2d 299; People ex rel. Reinhardt v. McRoberts (1961), 22 Ill.2d 282, 285, 174 N.E.2d 841; People ex rel. Johnson v. Robison (1950), ... ...
  • People ex rel. Korzen v. American Airlines, Inc.
    • United States
    • Illinois Supreme Court
    • November 30, 1967
    ...was fraudulently excessive. See People ex rel. Frantz v. M.D.B.K.W., Inc., 36 Ill.2d 209, 221 N.E.2d 650; People ex rel. Reinhardt v. McRoberts, 22 Ill.2d 282, 174 N.E.2d 841. The judgment of the circuit court of Cook County is reversed and the cause remanded to that court with directions t......
  • People ex rel. Rosewell v. Dee El Garage, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • July 28, 1977
    ...306 N.E.2d 299; People ex rel. Munson v. Morningside Heights, Inc. (1970), 45 Ill.2d 338, 259 N.E.2d 27; People ex rel. Reinhardt v. McRoberts (1961), 22 Ill.2d 282, 174 N.E.2d 841.) Courts generally will not presume to second guess the expertise of the county assessor unless the taxpayer h......
  • People ex rel. Wenzel v. Chicago & N. W. Ry. Co.
    • United States
    • Illinois Supreme Court
    • May 27, 1963
    ... ... Reinhardt ... v. McRoberts, 22 Ill.2d 282, 174 N.E.2d 841), followed the course of the taxpayers in Hillison and Kohorst and sought to introduce into evidence ... ...
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