How Does The Indiana Tax Court Work?
The Indiana Tax Court is an appellate court in the Indiana judicial system with exclusive jurisdiction over tax-related matters. Depending on the type of case being heard, the Tax Court may also act as a non-jury trial court.
In the Indiana Court system, the types of cases that fall under the jurisdiction of the Tax Court are:
- Cases that arise under the state’s tax laws which are initial appeals of a final determination made by either the Indiana Board of Tax Review or the Indiana Department of State Revenue.
- Original tax appeals (These include appeals of cases that involve inheritance tax determination)
- Specific appeals from the state’s Department of Local Government Finance
The Tax Court also maintains a small claims docket. This docket serves the following functions:
- Processing claims for refunds from the state’s Department of Revenue that is not over $5,000 for any year
- Handling appeals of the final determination of assessed value made by the Indiana State Board of Tax Commissioners that is not over $15,000 for any year
The Indiana Tax Court is the only appellate court in the state headed by a single judge. This judge is selected through a process that begins with the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission. The Judicial Nominating Commission is statutorily charged with the vetting and nomination of individuals for appointment as an appellate court judge or justice. This commission consists of the Indiana Supreme Court Chief Judge, who is also the ex officio Chair of the Commission, three lawyers elected by the Indiana legal community, and three non-lawyers appointed by the Governor of Indiana.
Individuals who wish to become a Tax Court judge must be citizens of the state admitted into the practice of law in Indiana for at least five years. Qualified applicants are required to submit their applications with the commission, which then reviews and vets them. Subsequently, the top three applications are nominated and sent to the state governor. The Governor then appoints one of these individuals to become the Tax Court judge.
Once appointed, the Tax Court judge will serve a two-year term, after which the judge will be required to stand in a retention election, which involves voters deciding with a “yes” or “no” vote whether the judge should remain in office. If most of the electorate votes “yes,” then the judge is appointed to a 10-year term. After the expiration of the term, judges who retain their position must stand in another retention election. However, if the electorate votes to remove the judge from office after the initial two-year term, the selection process is started afresh by the Judicial Nominating Commission. In compliance with Indiana state laws, any judge that reaches the age of 75 is required to retire, regardless of whether the judge is still serving out a term in office.
In the Indiana Tax Court, the petitioner must file the appeal not more than 45 days after a final determination has been issued for appeal cases from the Indiana Board of Tax review or the state’s Department of Local Government Finance. For cases from the Indiana Department of State Revenue, the petitioner has two options, which are:
- Appeal a decision contained in a letter of findings not later than 180 days after the letter was issued; or
- Pay the tax, file a claim for a refund, and then appeal the department’s denial of the claim for a refund not later than 90 days after the denial.
Note that any filed claim for a refund not acted on by the Department of State Revenue within 180 days is considered denied.
In most Indiana Tax Court appeal cases, the court reviews the records of the proceeding at the appropriate administrative agency to determine the following:
- If the agency’s final determination was made following proper procedures
- If the agency’s final determination was based on reliable or substantial evidence
- If the agency’s final determination was arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion
- If the agency’s final determination violated any constitutional, statutory or legal principle
Oral arguments may be heard from the appealing parties at the discretion of the court. In addition to this, in some appeal cases from the state’s Department of Revenue, the Indiana Tax Court may hear any admissible evidence to aid in deciding whether taxes are being owed, and how much tax is due.
After the case records have been reviewed, the Tax Court judge will issue a written opinion, stating whether or not the government has properly taxed the petitioner. The time it takes for a case to be reviewed is dependent on the details of the case. Decisions rendered in the Tax Court may be appealed directly to the Indiana Supreme Court.
Persons who wish to access Indiana Tax Court records may contact the Clerk of the Appellate Courts’ offices. The Clerks’ office can be contacted at:
200 West Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: (317) 232–1930 (Main Office)
Phone: (317) 232–7225 (Records Division)
Hours: 8:30 a.m.—4:30 p.m., Mondays to Fridays
The Indiana judicial system also provides interested parties with online access to Tax Court opinions, memorandum decisions, and tax summaries via its appellate decisions webpage. Interested members of the public can also view oral arguments and perform searches for appellate court records online.
The Indiana Tax Court sits at:
115 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: (317) 232–4694
However, the Tax Court may also hear cases in Allen, Jefferson, Lake, St. Joseph, Vanderburgh, and Vigo counties, as decided by the petitioner.