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January 20, 2013

County wins tax dispute

Bradford Run denied exemption.

For the third time in two years Howard County has prevailed with the Indiana Board of Tax Review after local businesses claimed they should be considered exempt from paying property taxes.

The board ruled Jan. 14 against the appeal filed by Bradford Run Apartments that they should be tax exempt because they provide housing for low-income families.

Bradford Run sought a 100 percent tax exempt status for 2010 taxes payable in 2011 and 2011 taxes payable in 2012. If successful the apartment complex would not have paid property taxes in the future.

The exemption request was denied by Jamie Shepherd, Howard County Assessor, and the Howard County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals. Those denials were appealed to the Indiana Board of Tax Review, and a hearing was conducted last October.

Bradford Run contended it was eligible for a 100 percent tax exemption because it was owned, occupied and used for charitable purposes. The complex is owned by the Indianapolis based Buckingham Foundation, a non-profit organization.

Angie Atkins, senior property manager for Bradford Run, said at the October hearing that 75 percent of the residents are at 80 percent of the local adjusted median income and 20 percent of that population is at 50 percent or less of the adjusted median income.

During the hearing Shepherd said that the Indiana Tax Court stated that being granted tax-exempt status is a privilege because all property receives protection, security and services from the government, such as police protection.

She argued when a property is given tax exempt status it shifts the amount of taxes to other property owners and it would have given Bradford Run a competitive advantage over other apartment complexes in the county.

A rent study showed that Bradford Run did not give low-income tenants a lower monthly rental fee and that there was no correlation between income and rents.

As a result of the ruling, Bradford Run, which has an assessed value of $8.7 million in real and personal property, will pay annual taxes of approximately $187,000.

Shepherd said if Bradford Run had been granted tax exempt status, the county would have had to refund $387,000 to the Buckingham Foundation.

“Buckingham Foundation is providing great services, but it does not appear that it is providing discounted rents for lower income individuals or families,” she said of Bradford Run. “We were able to show multiple examples where higher income residents were being charged rent less than or equal to lower income residents.”

The Vinton Woods Apartments and Correctional Management, which operated the former Kokomo Academy, both lost appeals before the Indiana Board of Tax Review when they sought tax exempt status.

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