LEWIS R. HARDENBERGH, JOHN T. HARDENBERGH, THOMAS R. HARDENBERGH, and DOROTHY R. WILLIAMSON, Petitioners-Appellants,
DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY, Respondent-Appellee.
Tribunal LC No. 14-000990-TT
Before: Sawyer, P.J., and Borrello and Servitto, JJ.
appeal as of right the final judgment of the Tax Tribunal
upholding the Department of Treasury's denial of
petitioners' request for waiver of interest under MCL
211.7cc(8). We affirm.
principal facts are not in dispute. Since at least 2005,
Lewis R. Hardenbergh has resided on land he owns in Manistee,
Michigan. Contiguous to his property is another parcel (the
subject property), measuring approximately four acres and
including a cottage occupied by a caretaker of the property,
a house, a log cabin, two garages, and three sheds. The
subject property was owned by Lewis's mother, Flora, but
upon her death in 2006, it transferred to her children,
acquiring the property in 2006, petitioners applied for a
principal residence exemption (PRE) given that Lewis's
property was contiguous to the subject property, although
none of petitioners intended to reside, or did reside, on the
subject property. When Lewis requested PRE status for the
subject property David Meister, the county assessor, sought
the guidance of the Manistee County Equalization Director.
The director informed Meister that "the value
attributable to the buildings on the Subject Property would
not qualify for the PRE, but the land itself would qualify
for the PRE." Because the value of the buildings
amounted to 15 percent of the total taxable value of the
property, petitioners claimed, and they were granted, PRE
status for 85 percent of the property.
November 2013, the Manistee County Treasurer determined that
the subject property is not eligible for the PRE and, hence,
denied the PRE for 2010 through 2013. The county issued
petitioners a corrected tax bill for $80, 384.90, including
$20, 231.06 in interest.
February 2014, petitioners requested that respondent waive
the interest, pursuant to MCL 211.7cc(8), which permits
respondent to waive interest in the instance that the county
assessor submits an affidavit attesting to an error
enumerated in the statute. In their request, petitioners
noted that they had followed "the guidance [the
assessor] received from the County Director in claiming an
85% PRE exemption [sic]." Pursuant to statutory
requirements, Meister also submitted an affidavit requesting
that respondent waive the interest and noting the reason why
the subject property had been allowed the 85 percent PRE.
Respondent denied the interest waiver request, stating,
"Based on the information we received, it has been
determined that insufficient documentation was submitted to
show that an assessor's error occurred as required by MCL
appealed respondent's denial of the interest waiver to
the Michigan Tax Tribunal. In their petition, petitioners pleaded
that "the explanation submitted by the Assessor outlined
the facts and circumstances which . . . constitute an
'other error' by the Assessor pursuant to [MCL
211.7cc(8).]." Petitioners further asserted that
respondent made no findings to support its determination
denying the interest waiver and that its decision was
arbitrary. In their request for relief, petitioners requested
that the Tribunal reverse respondent's decision and order
that "the waiver of penalty interest be granted . . .
." Respondent countered that the "error" made
was not the type of error that MCL 211.7cc(8) contemplated,
and petitioners' request to waive interest was based on
equitable principles not contained in the statute.
hearing, the Tribunal entered a Final Opinion and Order
denying petitioners' interest waiver request. It reasoned
that that "other errors" are those akin to
classification errors, and further noted that it was not
entirely persuaded that the error at the heart of the case
was made by the assessor. Petitioners now appeal.
appeal, petitioners first argue that the Tribunal's
interpretation of MCL 211.7cc(8) was erroneous. We disagree.
of a decision by the [Michigan Tax Tribunal] is very
limited." Drew v Cass Co, 299 Mich.App. 495,
498; 830 N.W.2d 832 (2013). Unless fraud is alleged, this
Court reviews the Tribunal's decision for a
"misapplication of the law or adoption of a wrong
principle." Liberty Hill Housing Corp v City of
Livonia, 480 Mich. 44, 49; 746 N.W.2d 282 (2008).
"The Tribunal's factual findings will not be
disturbed as long as they are supported by competent,
material, and substantial evidence on the whole record."
Drew, 299 Mich.App. at 499 (citation and quotations
omitted). "Substantial evidence" is "more than
a scintilla of evidence, although it may be substantially
less than a preponderance of the evidence." Leahy v
Orion Twp, 269 Mich.App. 527, 529-530; 711 N.W.2d 438
(2006) (citation omitted). Finally, this Court reviews de
novo issues of statutory construction. Drew, 299
Mich.App. at 499.
principal residence exemption, also known as the
'homestead exemption, ' is governed by §§
7cc and 7dd of the General Property Tax Act [GPTA], MCL
211.7cc and MCL 211.7dd." Drew, 299 Mich.App.
at 500 (citation and quotations omitted). The GPTA allows a
PRE in the instance that the property is owned and occupied
as a principal residence. MCL 211.7cc(2). The owner of the
property claims the exemption by filing an affidavit
attesting that the owner of the property owns it and occupies
it as the owner's principal residence. MCL 211.7cc(2).
The act also authorizes the county to audit claimed
exemptions. MCL 211.7cc(10). In the instance the county
denies a claimed PRE, the county treasurer issues a corrected
tax bill including interest. MCL 211.7cc(11).
certain circumstances, the Department of Treasury may waive
the interest accrued in a corrected tax bill issued as a
result of a rescinded ...