The Indiana General Assembly established the Indiana Tax Court on July 1, 1986. The Indiana Tax Court holds most of its hearings in Indianapolis, where it is located. However, taxpayers can choose to have a hearing in one of six other counties that might be closer to their home: Allen, Jefferson, Lake, St. Joseph, Vanderburgh, or Vigo. A unique fact about the Indiana Tax Court is that it sits as both an appellate court and a trial court, depending on what kind of case it is hearing.
Today's Indiana Tax Court
Most of the cases heard by the Indiana Tax Court are appeals of decisions made by the Indiana government agencies that decide how much tax you pay. A tax is simply money owed to the government. For example, the Indiana Department of Revenue is the tax agency that would tell you how much sales tax to pay on a t-shirt or a television that you wanted to buy. The Indiana Board of Tax Review is the tax agency that approves the amount of property tax that homeowners have to pay on their houses; each county or taxing unit decides the tax rate and submits it to this agency for approval.
The Tax Court must also maintain a small claims docket for processing claims for refunds from the Department of Revenue that do not exceed $5,000 for any year and appeals of final determination of assessed value made by the State Board of Tax Commissioners that do not exceed $15,000 for any year.
Who Sits on the Indiana Tax Court?
The Indiana Tax Court is the only appellate court with just one judge. Martha Blood Wentworth is the current judge of the Indiana Tax Court. The role of the Indiana Tax Court judge is to decide whether the government correctly taxed a person or a business. The governor picks the judge of the Indiana Tax Court using recommendations by the Judicial Nominating Commission, just like he picks judges of the other appellate courts.
Appealing a Case to the Indiana Tax Court
When a person thinks he has paid too much in taxes, he can file an original tax appeal with the Indiana Tax Court. Filing an original tax appeal means that the taxpayer has filed certain papers with the court and is challenging the amount of tax that they have been charged. The next section will talk in more detail about how appeals are handled in each of Indiana's appellate courts.