In Hodges v. Kensington, 102 N.H. 399, plaintiff produced evidence of the ratio between the assessments placed on four properties of others in the town and their market values as fixed by recent sales. From this evidence and the testimony of one of the' town's selectmen that all assessments were made at 50 per cent of fair market value, the Court could find that plaintiff's property was assessed at a higher ratio to its market value than were the other properties in town and could properly decree an abatement.Summary of this case from Ainsworth v. Claremont
Argued December 2, 1959.
Decided January 27, 1960.
1. A taxpayer whose real property is assessed at more than its true value is entitled to an abatement if the assessment is disproportionately higher in relation to its true value than that of other real property in the taxing district.
2. In a petition for tax abatement, testimony of a selectman who had held that office for many years that for the tax year in question it was the practice of the selectmen of that taxing district to assess real property therein at fifty per cent of its fair market value was competent to establish the ratio of assessed value to true value.
3. Such testimony together with a view by the Court of properties in the town similar to that of the plaintiff's and evidence of their assessed valuations and their recent sales prices warranted a finding that other taxable real property in the town was assessed at fifty per cent of its market value.
4. Upon evidence of the ratio of assessed value to market value applied by the tax assessors in assessing other taxable property in the town for the tax year in question and expert testimony as to the fair market value of plaintiff's property as well as evidence of assessed values of similar properties in the district the Trial Court was warranted in finding that the plaintiff was bearing more than his share of the common tax burden and the tax abatement was justified.
PETITION, for abatement of taxes under RSA ch. 76.
The selectmen of Kensington for the tax year of 1956 appraised the plaintiff's property at a fair market value of $70,000 and, applying a ratio of fifty per cent to its true value, assessed the property for $35,000.
The Court (Grant, J.) took a view of the plaintiff's property and four other properties in the town and after hearing entered the following decree:
"The Court finds that the petitioner has been required to pay a tax upon his real estate for the tax year 1956 in excess of his share of the common burden and that a legal and equitable tax would have been one based upon a valuation of $30,000. This $30,000 figure is the 50% of fair market value, applied by the selectmen for 1956. (Test. of Selectman John W. York). The petitioner's tax for the year 1956 shall be abated in accordance with and in conformity to the findings herein made."
The defendant's exceptions to the ruling of the Court on certain evidentiary questions, to the denial of its motion to dismiss, and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict were reserved and transferred.
Perkins, Holland Donovan (Mr. Donovan orally), for the plaintiff.
George R. Scammon (by brief and orally), for the defendant.
The chief contention of the defendant is that there was insufficient evidence to support the findings and rulings of the Trial Court.
In tax abatement cases, if a plaintiff shows that his property is assessed at more than its market value, he must go further and show that his assessment is disproportionate to that of other property in the taxing district. Rollins v. Dover, 93 N.H. 448.
"The relief granted in a petition for an abatement is equitable in nature. The plaintiff is entitled to be relieved of such sum, if any, as it has paid in excess of the common burden. Amoskeag Mfg. Co. v. Manchester, 70 N.H. 200, 205. The issue is whether the plaintiff's tax is greater than it should be with respect to the taxes of other property owners in the taxing district." Bemis c. Bag Co. v. Claremont, 98 N.H. 446, 449.
The plaintiff's share of the common burden is that proportion of the total tax which the true value of his property bears to the true value of all the other taxable property in the town, and in order to get relief a petitioner must establish on the balance of probabilities that his burden of taxation is disproportionately higher in relation to its true value than that upon all other property in general. Rollins v. Dover, supra.
It is not understood that the defendant here disputes this general theory of the plaintiff's tax obligation, but the defendant asserts that since in this type of case the plaintiff is one party and all the remaining taxpayers in the taxing district constitute the other, the plaintiff cannot establish his right to equitable relief based on the evidence of a few isolated instances of disproportionate assessments.
The plaintiff, over the defendant's objection, offered testimony through the defendant's selectman York, a man of twenty-four years' experience in that office, that for the tax year of 1956 the selectmen appraised all of the property in town at its fair market value and applied a ratio of fifty per cent thereof as the tax assessment value. No evidence was offered by the defendant to dispute this method. The evidence was competent. Snow v. Sanbornton, 102 N.H. 11.
The Court took a view of four similar properties in the town and received evidence of their assessed valuations and their recent sales prices. On this evidence it was findable that three of these properties sold for about twice their assessed valuations and that a fourth, which sold for over three times its assessed valuation brought a price in excess of its fair market value. On this evidence and the testimony of selectman York the Court could find that the other taxable property of the town was assessed at fifty per cent of its market value.
In determining the market value of plaintiff's property the Court had the benefit of the testimony of two experts that its fair market value was from $50,000 to $91,500. The Court found its true value to be $60,000. Since the selectmen had fixed its true value at $70,000, it was findable that the plaintiff was bearing more than his share of the common burden.