COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court contemplated whether grain storage bins should be taxed as real or personal property this session.
And the judges came up with a unanimous decision July 15. The decision was announced much sooner than was originally anticipated.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that grain storage bins are personal property pursuant to state law and may not be taxed as real property.
The court’s unanimous decision affirmed a ruling of the board of tax appeals, which determined that the actual value of property owned by Metamora Elevator Co. in Fulton County was $738,240 instead of the auditor’s assessed value of more than $1.8 million that included the storage bins.
The court observed that historically the distinction between fixtures that were real property and those that were personal property was elusive. But, in 1992, the General Assembly clarified that storage bins are personal property.
Although the case originated in Fulton County, the decision will mean an impact on tax bills for all Ohio farmers with a grain storage bin.
Metamora’s 8-acre property includes buildings, silos, storage bins, and tanks for processing and storing grain. In March 2010, Metamora contested the county auditor’s property value on two parcels and claimed the storage bins should be removed from the assessment.
The county board of revision, which considered Metamora’s complaints, rejected the claim.
Metamora appealed the decision on one of the parcels to the board of tax appeals, which reversed, determining that the grain storage bins, valued at nearly $1.1 million, were personal property.
Silos vs. storage bins
The opinion was written by Justice Terrence O’Donnell. He wrote in the opinion that a representative testifying for Metamora distinguished between concrete silos and corrugated metal storage bins.
While the representative acknowledged that the silos on the land were permanent and constituted real property, he described the bins as modular units that can be disassembled and put back together.
Grain storage bins are business fixtures. Justice O’Donnell wrote in his opinion. He added that the General Assembly amended the definitions of “real property” and “personal property” in 1992.
The statute defining personal property, in the Ohio Revised Code, includes “business fixtures,” which are items of tangible personal property permanently attached or affixed to the land or to a building, structure, or improvement and primarily benefiting the business conducted on the property.
The statute then lists “storage bins” as one type of business fixture.
O’Donnell went on to say that the General Assembly has expressly defined the term ‘business fixture’ to include storage bins, and therefore, the storage bins are personal property and are not subject to real property tax.
“There is no dispute that the items at issue in this case are storage bins, and the General Assembly expressly stated that the term ‘business fixture’ includes storage bins as personal property,” O’Donnell wrote. “For these reasons, we affirm the decision of the BTA.”
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