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Michigan Tax Tribunal History
The Tribunal is an administrative tax court that conducts hearings and renders written decisions based on the evidence submitted. Created in 1974, the Tribunal is composed of six members who are, by statute, required to represent the legal, accounting, appraising and assessing professions and a Chair. All members and the Chair of the Tribunal are appointed by the Governor with the Michigan Senate's advice and consent.
The Tribunal receives roughly 8,000 tax appeals annually. The appeals span all of Michigan taxes. Roughly 80% of the filings are property tax appeals, as the Tribunal has original and exclusive jurisdiction over property tax matters (i.e., valuations, special assessments, principal residence exemptions, qualified agricultural exemptions, etc.). See MCL 205.731. The remaining filings involve business and individual tax matters (i.e., Single Business Tax, Sales and Use Taxes, Motor Fuel Tax, Cigarette and Tobacco Taxes, Income Taxes, etc.). The Tribunal shares jurisdiction for business and individual tax matters with the Ingham County Circuit Court in its dual capacity as the Michigan Court of Claims. (See MCL 205.22.) The Tribunal has estimated that its pending case load amounts to roughly a billion dollars in disputed taxes.
The Tribunal is divided into two divisions - the Entire Tribunal and the Small Claims Division. Any cases over which the Tribunal has subject matter jurisdiction may be filed in the Entire Tribunal, with the exception of principal residence and qualified agricultural exemption appeals. Litigation in the Entire Tribunal resembles civil litigation in Michigan circuit courts. Entire Tribunal litigation allows full discovery, has a full-fledged motion practice and follows significant portions of the Michigan Court Rules. An Entire Tribunal hearing is typically between 2 days to 2 weeks, though some have extended beyond a year! Only certain cases (all property disputes involving residential property and principal residence, poverty and qualified agriculture exemptions, in addition to all other cases dependent on the amount in controversy) may be filed in the Small Claims Division. Small claims cases are handled in a manner very similar to other administrative hearings. The hearings are only a half hour in length.
In 2003, the Tribunal clarified an existing mission statement to read as follows:
MISSION STATEMENT: To provide all citizens with the opportunity to resolve state and local tax disputes at a fair and impartial hearing and to receive a timely written, quality decision that is based on the evidence submitted and the law.
VISION: To be a tax court that is accessible and understood by all, that treats citizens and employees with the highest standards of respect, fairness, integrity, and excellence and that, by its public service, inspires trust in Michigan's tax system and becomes a nationwide model for other tax courts.
VALUES: Integrity, Respect, Accountability, Teamwork, and Trust