House Bill No. 441

Introduced By bankhead

A Bill for an Act entitled: "An Act allowing electronic recording of certain tax appeal proceedings to suffice as a record of those proceedings; and amending sections 15-2-301 and 15-15-103, MCA; AND PROVIDING AN IMMEDIATE EFFECTIVE DATE."

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Montana:

Section 1.  Section 15-2-301, MCA, is amended to read:

"15-2-301.   Appeal of county tax appeal board decisions. (1) The county tax appeal board shall mail a copy of its decision to the taxpayer and to the property assessment division of the department of revenue. If the appearance provisions of 15-15-103 have been complied with, a person or the department on behalf of the state or any municipal corporation aggrieved by the action of the county tax appeal board may appeal to the state board by filing with the state tax appeal board a notice of appeal within 30 calendar days after the receipt of the decision of the county board. The notice must specify the action complained of and the reasons assigned for the complaint. Notice of acceptance of an appeal must be given to the county tax appeal board by the state tax appeal board. The state board shall set the appeal for hearing either in its office in the capital or the county seat as the board considers advisable to facilitate the performance of its duties or to accommodate parties in interest. The board shall give to the appellant and to the respondent at least 15 calendar days' notice of the time and place of the hearing.

(2)  At the time of giving notice of acceptance of an appeal, the state board may require the county board to certify to it the minutes of the proceedings resulting in the action and all testimony taken in connection with its proceedings. The state board may, in its discretion, determine the appeal on the record if all parties receive a copy of the transcript and are permitted to submit additional sworn statements, or the state board may hear further testimony. For the purpose of expediting its work, the state board may refer any appeal to one of its members or to a designated hearings officer. The board member or hearings officer may exercise all the powers of the board in conducting a hearing and shall, as soon as possible after the hearing, report the proceedings, together with a transcript or a tape recording of the hearing, to the board. The state board shall determine the appeal on the record.

(3)  On all hearings at county seats throughout the state, the state board or the member or hearings officer designated to conduct a hearing may employ the local court reporter or other a competent stenographer person to take and transcribe electronically record the testimony received. The cost of taking and transcribing electronically recording testimony may be paid out of the general appropriation for the board.

(4)  In connection with any appeal under this section, the state board is not bound by common law and statutory rules of evidence or rules of discovery and may affirm, reverse, or modify any decision. To the extent that this section is in conflict with the Montana Administrative Procedure Act, this section supersedes that act. The state tax appeal board may not amend or repeal any administrative rule of the department. The state tax appeal board shall give an administrative rule full effect unless the board finds a rule arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise unlawful.

(5)  The decision of the state tax appeal board is final and binding upon all interested parties unless reversed or modified by judicial review. Proceedings for judicial review of a decision of the state tax appeal board under this section are subject to the provisions of 15-2-303 and the Montana Administrative Procedure Act to the extent that it does not conflict with 15-2-303."

Section 2.  Section 15-15-103, MCA, is amended to read:

"15-15-103.   Examination of applicant -- failure to hear application. (1) Before the county tax appeal board grants any application or makes any reduction applied for, it shall examine on oath the person or agent making the application, touching the value of the property of each person. A reduction may not be made unless the applicant makes an application, as provided in 15-15-102, and attends the county tax appeal board hearing. An appeal of the board's decision may not be made to the state tax appeal board unless the person or the person's agent has exhausted the remedies available through the county tax appeal board. In order to exhaust the remedies, the person or the person's agent shall attend the county tax appeal board hearing. On written request by the person or the person's agent and on the written concurrence of the department of revenue, the county tax appeal board may waive the requirement that the person or the person's agent attend the hearing. The testimony of all witnesses at the hearing must be taken in shorthand, taken by stenotype, or electronically recorded and preserved for 1 year. If the decision of the county tax appeal board is appealed, all testimony must be transcribed or otherwise reduced to writing and forwarded the record of the proceedings, including the electronic recording of all testimony, must be forwarded, together with all exhibits, to the state tax appeal board. The date of the hearing, the proceedings before the board, and the decision must be entered upon the minutes of the board, and the board shall notify the applicant of its decision by mail within 3 days. A copy of the minutes of the county tax appeal board must be transmitted to the state tax appeal board no later than 3 days after the board holds its final hearing of the year.

(2)  If a county tax appeal board refuses or fails to hear a taxpayer's timely application for a reduction in valuation of property, the taxpayer's application is considered to be granted on the day following the board's final meeting for that year. The department shall enter the appraisal or classification sought in the application in the property tax record. An application is not automatically granted for the following appeals:

(a)  those listed in 15-2-302; and

(b)  if a taxpayer's appeal from the department's determination of classification or appraisal made pursuant to 15-7-102 was not received in time, as provided for in 15-15-102, to be considered by the board during its current 60-day session."