Columbus auto dealer gets tax court reversal over base rate enforcement concerns

Indiana Tax Court overturns for Columbus auto dealership after finding that three appeals he filed regarding errors in his property appraisals between 2016 and 2018 presented questions about objective application a base rate already determined prescribed by a land ordinance.

Chevrolet of Columbus Inc. has slipped into a dispute with Bartholomew County’s assessor over the assessed value of its property for the 2016 through 2018 tax years.

The car dealership had purchased a vacant parcel of approximately 4 acres of land in Columbus for $1,763,130, where it built a car sales and service facility. The buildings were placed on the “main” lot while the remaining 61,418 square feet of the property remained unused for future development.

The appraiser assigned the Chevrolet property a assessed value of $1,734,600 for the 2016 tax year, $3,257,100 for the 2017 tax year and $3,417,300 for the year 2018 tax bill. Chevrolet appealed, seeking to correct what it called a “clerical, mathematical or typographical error.”

Before the Indiana Board of Tax Review, Chevrolet argued that prime land under the county land ordinance should be assessed at $10 per square foot and undeveloped usable land at $3 per square foot. Instead, the main land was valued at $13 per square foot in 2016 and 2017 and $15 per square foot in 2018, while its undeveloped usable land was valued at $3.90 per square foot in 2016 and 2017 and at $4.50 per square foot in 2018.

The appraiser disagreed, saying that between the 2012 and 2016 tax years, she applied a base rate of $13 per square foot to all prime land in the Chevrolet “district” and a base rate of $3.90 per square foot to all usable undeveloped land. She also claimed the calls from Chevrolet were unwanted.

Indiana’s board agreed that Chevrolet’s appeals were filed prematurely. He explained that Chevrolet was required to file its appeals within the statutory 45-day time limit for challenging a property’s assessed value, not within the applicable three-year time limit for challenging objective mathematical errors.

In a Friday reversal of that ruling, the Indiana Tax Court compared Chevrolet’s situation to Muir Woods Section One Ass’n v. O’Connor172 NE3d 1205 (Ind. 2021), noting that Chevrolet’s three appeals raise questions about the objective application of an already determined base rate prescribed by a land ordinance.

“Specifically, during the administrative process, Chevrolet claimed that each of its property assessments contained a ‘mathematical error’ because the assessor failed to use the base rates established in the Bartholomew County Land Ordinance when calculation of the assessed values ​​of his land,” Judge Martha Blood Wentworth said. wrote.

The Tax Court found that the errors raised in Chevrolet’s appeals were not inherently subjective, but rather challenged the objective application of a predetermined base rate.

The court found there was “no dispute” that Chevrolet’s appeals had been made using the revised Form 130 error correction appeals procedure and that Chevrolet had filed its appeals for a correction of error within three years of when the taxes on his 2016 to 2018 assessments were first due.

“Furthermore, Chevrolet’s appeals raised objective errors as to whether the assessor used the base rates of the applicable Bartholomew County land ordinance when calculating the assessed values ​​of his land,” he wrote. . “As a result, the Indiana Board of Directors erred in finding that Chevrolet’s appeals for error correction were not timely filed.”

On remand, the Tax Court ordered the Indiana council to determine whether the assessor had applied the correct base rate to the 2016-2018 Chevrolet property assessments. It also ordered to address the alleged under- 2016 assessment based exclusively on the evidence already included in the certified administrative file.

The deal is Chevrolet of Columbus, Inc. v Bartholomew County Assessor21T-TA-28