Day of the Trial
Bring all of the evidence you wish to present, such as photographs or written reports. Make sure your witnesses are in the courtroom. There is usually an easel in the courtroom that you can use to present evidence. If you need other special equipment, such as a laptop, blackboard or other equipment, you must make your own arrangements.
When you arrive at the courthouse, look for a posted calendar outside the courtroom or check with the judge's staff. They will tell you the order in which cases will be heard. The judge will call your case from the bench, which is your signal to come forward.
As the plaintiff, you will be asked to present your evidence first. If you bring witnesses, the county attorney or assessor will be allowed to question them. You will be allowed to question the county's witnesses as well.
No, but it might be difficult to prove your case without information supplied by witnesses, such as an appraiser. In most Tax Court cases, the owner of the property testifies and presents an opinion of value or use. The Tax Court will probably give more weight to testimony from trained appraisers than from non-experts.
Here are some points to remember as you plan your presentation:
- Prepare. Make a list of key points you wish to make. Keep it with you for reference.
- Follow courtroom etiquette. Be on time. Dress neatly. Call the judge "Your Honor."
- Set the scene. The Tax Court judge has never seen your property. Tell the judge something about your property right away so the judge will understand your arguments more fully. Where is the property located? What buildings are on it? How are the buildings used? How much did you pay for it? How long have you owned it? Have you made improvements? Are there natural features, like washes, streams or timber, that affect the value or use of your property? How much would you sell it for? Describe the issues that are in dispute in the case.
- Ask specific questions of witnesses. Whether you are questioning a witness you have brought or one the county attorney or assessor has called, ask specific questions to gather information. Do not argue with witnesses.
- Keep your presentation brief and factual. If you have prepared well, you should know exactly what evidence you want to present. Do it directly and factually.
- After you have presented your evidence and called your witnesses, it will be the county's turn to present its evidence. Listen respectfully to the opposition. Do not interrupt. Make notes on any points you would like to clarify further when you get a chance to question the county's witnesses.
- Be prepared to sum up your case. After both sides have called their witnesses, you will get a chance to sum up your case before the Court. This is your chance to pull your evidence together so that the judge understands your views. Again, keep your statements brief and factual. A long speech will not improve your case if the facts do not support your view.
The hearing will continue until all evidence is presented. Most small claims hearings in Tax Court last about 30 minutes, sometimes more. There is no time limit, but the judge may impose reasonable restrictions.
Both parties will receive the Court's written decision within 60 days of the hearing.
Generally, the judgment will be paid by the county treasurer out of tax money collected from property taxes during the next fiscal year, unless there is enough money available in funds budgeted for that purpose by the county to allow an immediate refund. Of course, if there are any taxes still owed on the property, which is the subject of the appeal, the amount of the judgment may be credited against the amount of outstanding taxes.
The Tax Court does not make refunds. That is the responsibility of the county or state.
Cases heard by the small claims tax division of the Arizona Tax Court cannot be appealed. The judge's decision is final.
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