Cozen O’Connor: Real Estate Tax Appeal Remanded [Tax Alert]

Real Estate Tax Appeal Remanded

Tax Alert

November 8, 2013

A panel of the Commonwealth Court remanded a decision by the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas for specific findings on certain aspects of a valuation for real estate tax purposes. 36 Township Line Storage, L.P. v. Montgomery County Board of Assessment Appeals, No. 1540 C.D. 2012 (Pa Commw. Oct. 18, 2013) (unreported). The property was a newly constructed self-storage facility. The trial court found that experts for the taxpayer and for the township and school district of Cheltenham were experienced, competent and qualified. However, because the experts came to strikingly different evaluations, the court adopted portions of each of the expert’s reports and determined its own value. The court also determined values for the years 2011 and 2012, but did not specifically state which portions of the expert’s reports it relied on. The court remanded, on the grounds of the now black-letter rule that a court may adopt some, a portion, or all of an expert’s report that it finds credible, but must explain which parts its relies upon so that a review in court can determine whether the conclusion is reasonably based on the record.

The panel agreed that the trial court correctly dismissed the localities’ motion to dismiss at the conclusion of the taxpayer’s case, because at that point not all the evidence was in and a dismissal therefore would have been improper. The court held that the appraisals correctly were given as of the date the appeals were filed, and not the date of the assessment appealed from, consistent with prior case law.

The court found no fault in the trial court disregarding that portion of the report of the expert for the localities because the report relied on industry standards of expenses as opposed to the actual expenses at the property. The conclusion may be error. Historical income and current income are relevant, but the earnings history of a property is important only insofar as it accurately predicts future income, because value is the present worth of future benefits. Appraisal Institute, The Appraisal of Real Estate 463 (14th ed. 2013).


Authors

Joseph C. Bright

Member

jbright@cozen.com

(215) 665-2053

Dan A. Schulder

Member

dschulder@cozen.com

(717) 703-5905

Cheryl A. Upham

Member

cupham@cozen.com

(215) 665-4193

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To discuss any questions you may have regarding the opinion discussed in this Alert, or how it may apply to your particular circumstances, please contact: Joseph C. Bright at jbright@cozen.com or 215.665.2053, Cheryl A. Upham at cupham@cozen.com or 215.665.4193, or Dan A. Schulder at dschulder@cozen.com or 717.703.5905.