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A Better Partnership
February 15, 2013

COA Opinion: Court upholds Michigan Tax Tribunal's determination regarding principal residence

The petitioners in Drew v. Cass County owned three homes, and they sought a principal residence exemption for one of those homes, located on an island in Dowagiac, Michigan. The petitioners claimed to live at the Dowagiac home with their six children for six months out of the year, and they submitted driver's licenses, voter registration cards and tax returns listing the home as their residence. The Michigan Tax Tribunal (MTT) denied the exemption, relying on utility bills that indicated very little usage and testimony from an area resident that nobody lived on the island. In addition, the petitioners owned two other homes, and the children's school was located less than one minute from one of the other homes. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed in a per curiam opinion, noting the limited nature of its review of MTT decisions. The court found persuasive the fact that the petitioners did not offer any evidence to counter the MTT's evidence regarding utility usage. In addition, the petitioners' driver's licenses, voter registration cards and tax returns were not conclusive proof of principal residence, but merely factors for the MTT to consider, and the weight to accord such evidence is within the MTT's discretion. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed the MTT's decision.

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