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A Better Partnership
December 19, 2014

COA: Verbal notice of special hearing before local tax board is constitutionally insufficient

In Spranger v. City of Warren, No. 316180, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that Warren’s local tax board owed Ms. Spranger a mailed notice of her special hearing date.  The Court of Appeals remanded Ms. Spranger’s case to the Tax Tribunal for a de novo proceeding.
 
Ms. Spranger submitted a poverty exemption application to the City of Warren’s March tax board of review to relieve her from paying property taxes.  Her application indicated that her only income was from a Bridge Card and state assistance with her utility bills.  The application, however, did not state the specific amount of assistance she received.  The City of Warren scheduled Ms. Spranger for a special hearing on her application, but did not mail her a notice.  Ms. Spranger no-showed, and the board denied her a poverty exemption on the grounds of an “incomplete application.”
 
Ms. Spranger appealed the board’s decision to the Michigan Tax Tribunal.  She attempted to present evidence of her income to the Tribunal.  The Tribunal refused the new evidence and held that her income and qualification for a poverty exemption were indeterminable based on her original application to Warren’s board of review.  The Tribunal had no jurisdiction to consider Ms. Spranger’s claim of Warren’s constitutionally insufficient notice of her hearing date.
 
The Court of Appeals held that Ms. Spranger was constitutionally and statutorily entitled to “personal notice by mail” of her special hearing.  The evidence showed that Ms. Spranger was arguably given verbal notice, but not written notice.  The Court of Appeals, therefore, remanded the case to the Tax Tribunal for a de novo hearing.  Ms. Spranger can present evidence of her income, and will, therefore, have a decision based on a complete application.

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