Indiana Tax Court Denies Premature Direct Appeal from Real Property Tax Assessment
In Convention Headquarters Hotels, LLC v. Marion County Assessor, 18T-TA-00014 (Ind. Tax Ct. Jan. 25, 2019), the taxpayer, Convention Headquarters Hotels, LLC (“CHH”), initiated a real property assessment appeal at the county level, which remained dormant for a substantial amount of time. On June 6, 2017, CHH removed the appeal from the county level by filing a Form 131 Petition for Review (“Form 131 petition”) with the Indiana Board of Tax Review (“Indiana Board”). After the Indiana Board took no action on the Form 131 petition, CHH filed an appeal with the Indiana Tax Court on May 1, 2018, alleging that the Court had subject matter jurisdiction over its appeal because it arose under Indiana’s tax laws. At issue was whether the Indiana Board’s failure to hold a hearing or provide notice of its final determination in this matter gave CHH the right to appeal directly to the Tax Court.
The Indiana Board is statutorily required to hold a hearing within 9 months after the filing of a Form 131 petition. I.C. § 6-1.1-15-4(e). Separately, the Indiana Board is statutorily required to issue its final determination within 90 days after the hearing. I.C. § 6-1.1-15-4(g)(1). The Tax Court construed these statutes together to mean that, in the absence of other factors, the Tax Court has subject matter jurisdiction over a case if the appeal to the Tax Court was filed no earlier than one year after the Form 131 petition was filed with the Indiana Board. Here, because CHH filed its Tax Court appeal 329 days after filing its Form 131 petition with the Indiana Board, the Court dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and remanded the matter to the Indiana Board.
Thus, when a taxpayer’s case remains pending before the Indiana Board for more than 12 months, that taxpayer can consider whether the Tax Court should hear the case de novo and serve as the finder of fact instead of the Indiana Board. Additional factors to consider may be how soon a hearing date could be obtained in either forum, differences in procedural rules between forums, and the prospect that a taxpayer may not be able to obtain appellate review of the Tax Court’s decision because the Indiana Supreme Court has discretion to decline appeals from the Tax Court.