Ambiguous Statute Tax Law In Indiana
Indiana Court will construe terms within a statute only if they are ambiguous. Shoup Buses, Inc. v. Indiana Dep't of State Revenue, 635 N.E.2d 1165, 1167 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1994).
"Although a simple disagreement between parties does not necessarily indicate ambiguity, opposing interpretations are persuasive in suggesting that an ambiguity exists. " Id. at 1168.
In construing a statute, the Court's goal is to determine and give effect to the Legislature's intent. Id. "To accomplish this, the Court gives statutory words and phrases their plain, ordinary, and usual meaning." Id.
Nothing in the language of Indiana Code Section 6-1.1-4-11 indicates that the determination to afford disaster relief is made by comparing the assessed value of destroyed property to the gross assessed value of all property in a township.
Indeed, nothing in the language of the statute provides for disaster relief on the basis of any comparative determinations whatsoever.
Rather, the determination of disaster relief is based on a finding that:
(1) a disaster has occurred;
(2) the disaster partially or totally destroyed real and personal property in a township;
(3) a substantial amount of property was destroyed. I.C. 6-1.1-4-11.
Where a word in a statute is undefined by statute or case law (as it is in this instance), the Court gives the word its plain and ordinary meaning; the Court may do so by referring to a dictionary. May Dept. Stores Co. v. Indiana Dep't of State Revenue, 749 N.E.2d 651, 661 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2001).
Here, the statute refers to an "amount" of property. I.C. 6-1.1-4-11. the plain and ordinary meaning of "amount" is "quantity." See WEBSTER'S THIRD INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY 72 (1981).
Accordingly, the phrase "substantial amount" in Indiana Code Section 6-1.1-4-11 is synonymous with "substantial quantity," not "substantial value."