Statutes and regulations often come with specific definitions, which identity they type of thing regulated and how the item defined may work with other statutes or regulations. These definitions often make less than exciting reading, but are necessary to the functioning of a modern statutory and regulatory scheme.
And tax law is replete with definitions. Often they are very much “bright line” definitions, which clearly delineate which items are subject to a tax and which are not. Other times, they may appear to be clear, but arguments may develop that require litigation in order to fully explicate that definition.
A recent case from the Ohio Supreme Court involves such an explication, determining whether a grain bin on a piece of property is a fixture and therefore part of the realty and subject to property tax, or is a business fixture and classified as personal property, therefore excluding it from property tax.
The grain bins in question were constructed from corrugated metal and bolted to a concrete pad. They could be disassembled and moved or sold. The property owner distinguished these bins from concrete elevators, which were permanent and considered realty. The taxing county argued they were “improvements” to the land and therefore subject to property tax.
In 1992, the Ohio General Assembly had amended the definition of real property and personal property. The statute defines real property as including buildings and fixtures permanently attached to the land.
As for personal property, the definition specifically notes that a “business fixture,” is something “that primarily benefits the business conducted by the occupant,” and includes “storage bins” as part of the enumerated list of business fixtures.
The Court concluded that this resolves the issue and that the grain bins do not constitute real property in this case.
Source: supremecourt.ohio.gov, “METAMORA ELEVATOR COMPANY v. FULTON COUNTY BOARD OF REVISION,” SLIP OPINION NO. 2015-OHIO-2807, July 15, 2015