Monday, January 07, 2008

The Appeal of the Appeal - Part Deux.

Kafka would recognize and love post-apocalypse debrisville.

Today I received notice of the Appeal Hearing. It will be held in late February. The letter was exceptionally uninformative.

I have reviewed the website for Orleans Parish appeals and have contacted the “Help Line”. They were no help, simply advising me to contact a lawyer, refusing to answer a question about the Tax Commission rules.

Here is the question from their FAQ;
2. Who has the burden of proof at the appeal hearing?

Assessment of property for taxes and procedures adopted for determining its value are presumed to be correct unless until the taxpayer makes satisfactory proof to the contrary.
I might be especially dense but this makes little sense to me. I can't parse this sentence. If "Assessment of property for taxes and procedures adopted for determining its value are presumed to be correct", then why is the taxpayer (not the appellant, in this case the assessor) responsible for for proof. This seems like a double dip for the Assessor who has, in my case, already been overruled by the Board of Review.

I have spoken to one attorney who suggested that appeals before the commission were de novo.

The Commission derives it authority from the Louisiana Constitution;
Article VII 18(E) of the Louisiana Constitution provides;

(E) Review. The correctness of assessments by the assessor shall be subject to review first by the parish governing authority, then by the Louisiana Tax Commission or its successor, and finally by the courts, all in accordance with procedures established by law.
That is not apparent in the Louisiana Revised Statute, LA. R.S. 47

Louisiana R.S 47:§1989. “Review of appeals by tax commission” provides in part.
A. Within ten days of receipt of the assessment lists as certified by the local board of review, the tax commission shall conduct public hearings to hear real and personal property appeals of taxpayers, bona fide representatives of an affected tax-recipient body, or assessors, from the action of the board of review.

B. The Louisiana Tax Commission shall consider the appeal of any taxpayer, bona fide representative of an affected tax-recipient body, or assessor dissatisfied with the determination of a local board of review. All documents, except confidential forms as provided in R.S. 47:2327, filed in connection with any appeal shall be available for public inspection during the regular business hours of the Louisiana Tax Commission.

C. All such hearings shall be conducted in accordance with rules and regulations established by the tax commission.
I also found this interesting tidbit.
§1989.1. Appeals; assessors; reimbursement of expenses

A. When in the performance of his duty, an assessor must defend an assessment before the tax commission, and the tax commission upholds the valuation of the assessor within ten percent of said valuation, each affected tax recipient body shall reimburse the assessor on a pro rata basis for the amount of the expense involved in defending the assessment.
Looks like once again I'll be the only person in the room not getting paid for my time.

I also found the Louisiana Administrative Code
Title 61 Revenue and Taxation (PDF)

Chapter 31 Public Exposure of Assessments; Appeals
§3103. Appeals to the Louisiana Tax Commission

P. The commission shall take official notice without
further identification of the contents of the original Louisiana records
and documents in possession of the commission when duly
certified copies thereof are offered into evidence and made a
part of the record. Evidence offered at the board of review is
not forwarded to the Tax Commission and must be submitted
by the assessor/taxpayer in accordance with filing
procedures for written appeals. The commission may receive
other documentary evidence in the form of copies or
excerpts or that which is incorporated by reference.
So far I haven't found any rules of the Commission which make the taxpayer solely responsible for proving their case.

I have been unable to find any statute, or rule of the Commission which requires the taxpayer, rather than the more usual the appellant to bear the burden of proof.

I have written to confirm the appropriate process for submitting information in advance of the hearing.

It appears that the appellant, Mr. Erroll Williams, Assessor for the Third Municipal District has not forwarded any information regarding his method of determining the original assessment, nor has he included any information regarding the Board of Review's determination of my revised assessment.

It seems critical for the Commission to have this information and I plan to submit it in advance of the hearing. While I intend to appear at the hearing I also want to make sure the documents are a part of the record prior to the hearing so the Commission will have full information.

I have also requested clarification of the FAQ question above.


Leigh C. said...

What the hell kind of kangaroo court are they setting up? This is disgusting.

mominem said...

I don't believe that there is any attempt to be unfair. I think the Tax Commission is faced with an unprecidented situation, brought on by years of ineffeciency, cronyism in the assessors offices and the aftereffects of the federal flood.

As I understand it in past years there have been only a handful of appeals, mostly involving high value properties (usually industrial or similar uniques situations) which justify the expense of the appeals.

It seems the Assessors of New Orleans have caused a massive problem by first doing a bad job then not satisfying their constituents and dumping the whole mess on the City Council and the Tax Commission.