Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Tax Law
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The government filed a complaint against Defendant, alleging that he promoted a tax evasion scheme in which he advised his clients to claim unwarranted federal income tax deductions for bogus charitable donations. The government sought to enjoin him from operating his business, as well as disgorgement of all of the proceeds from his scheme.   The question before the Eleventh Circuit was whether the Act bars a defendant from moving—in an action initiated by the government—for a protective order to restrain the government from using his responses to requests for admission when assessing a tax penalty in a separate administrative proceeding.   The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s dismissal of Defendant’s motion under the Anti-Injunction Act and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that because moving for a protective order in an action filed by the government does not amount to the maintenance of a “suit,” the Act does not apply. View "USA v. Michael L. Meyer" on Justia Law

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Books-A-Million was a retail bookstore operating thirteen locations throughout South Carolina. For $25 per year, Books-A-Million customers could become members in the "Millionaire's Club" to receive retail discounts. In 2015, the South Carolina Department of Revenue audited three years of Books-A-Million's financial records and discovered that no sales tax was being charged on Millionaire's Club memberships. The Department thereafter issued a Notice of Proposed Assessment for $242,076.97 in unpaid sales tax. Taxpayer was granted a contested hearing before an ALC, which upheld the assessment because, under South Carolina law, the sales of intangible memberships can be taxable if their value originates from the sale of taxable goods. Taxpayer then appealed to the court of appeals which affirmed. Both courts held that the pertinent language of "value proceeding or accruing" from the definition of "gross proceeds of sales" was inclusive of Taxpayer's Millionaire's Club membership fees because the language included value related to sales, not merely the value of the sales themselves. Taxpayer argued on appeal that its sales of Millionaire's Club memberships were not taxable under South Carolina's sales tax because the language of the statute excluded it. The Department contended that the state tax code contemplated value not just from sales of tangible goods, but from related costs because of the language "proceeding or accruing" as well as the jurisprudence of the South Carolina Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed with the Department, and affirmed the lower courts' judgments. View "Books-A-Million, Inc., v. South Carolina Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC) that the purchases by Carfax, Inc. of certain equipment used to create vehicle history reports (VHRs) were exempt from sales and use taxes under Mo. Rev. Stat. 144.030.2(5) and 144.054.2 because Carfax used such equipment to "manufacture" VHRs, holding that Carfax did not use the equipment in the "manufacturing" of its VHRs.After an audit, the Director of Revenue determined that Carfax did not use the disputed equipment to manufacture VHRs, and therefore, its purchase of that equipment was not exempt from sales and use taxes. On appeal, the AHC found that Carfax's purchases of the equipment were exempt from sales and use taxes under both sections 144.303.2(5) and 144.054(2) because Carfax used that equipment directly in manufacturing VHRs. The Supreme Court vacated the decision below, holding that, for purposes of these statutes, Carfax did not use the disputed equipment to manufacture VHRs. View "Carfax, Inc. v. Director of Revenue" on Justia Law

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David Sholy appealed a district court order dismissing his appeal from the Cass County Commission’s (“Commission”) decision to deny his applications for abatement or refund of taxes. Sholy argued the court misapplied the law in ordering him to file a certificate of record. The Commission argued Sholy failed to timely file his notice of appeal with the court. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court’s reasoning for dismissing Sholy’s appeal was incorrect but that dismissal was nonetheless appropriate because the court lacked jurisdiction over Sholy’s untimely appeal. The Court therefore affirmed the order dismissing Sholy’s appeal. View "Sholy v. Cass Cty. Comm'm" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Guam taxpayers in their class action lawsuit against the territorial government. Guam had excessively withheld income taxes to support government spending. Some taxpayers got their refunds through an “expedited refund” process that devolved into arbitrariness and favoritism. The district court had certified a class of taxpayers who were entitled to but did not receive timely tax refunds.Duncan then filed a purported class action challenging the Virgin Islands' income tax collection practices. Duncan alleged that the Territory owed taxpayers at least $97,849,992.74 in refunds for the years 2007-2017, and that, for the years 2011-2017, the Territory failed to comply with the requirement in Virgin Islands Code title 33, section 1102(b), that the Territory set aside 10 percent of collected income taxes for paying refunds, leaving the required reserve underfunded by $150 million. The district court denied class certification, citing Duncan’s receipt of a refund check from the Territory during the pendency of her lawsuit; the check, while not the amount Duncan claims, called into question Duncan’s standing and made all of her claims atypical for the putative class. The Third Circuit vacated, rejecting the conclusion that the mid-litigation refund check deprived Duncan of standing and rendered all of her claims atypical. In evaluating whether Duncan was an adequate representative, the district court applied an incorrect legal standard. View "Duncan v. Governor of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the Wyoming Board of Equalization (Board) concluding that WPX Energy Rocky Mountain, LLC was entitled to deduct some of its "reservation fees," holding that the Board erred in interpreting the plain language of Wyo. Stat. Ann. 39-14-203(b)(vi)(C) in its decision.At issue on appeal was whether and to what extent WPX was entitled to deduct "reservation fees" under the "netback" severance tax valuation method, section(vi)(C), for natural gas production years 2013-2015. The Board concluded that WPX was entitled to deduct some of its reservation fees. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the statute allows WPX to fully deduct its pipeline reservation fees for months when some but not the full reserve capacity of gas was transported on that pipeline; (2) the statute does not allow WPX to deduct its Bison Pipeline reservation fees for months when it shipped no gas on the pipeline; and (3) the Board's conclusion that WPX cannot deduct any portion of its Bison Pipeline reservation fees it used to recoup pipeline construction costs was contrary to the plain language of the statute and the Bison agreement. View "Wyo. Department of Revenue v. WPX Energy Rocky Mountain, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fairbanks North Star Borough partially revoked a local ministry’s charitable property tax exemption after learning that the ministry was renting lodging to the general public. The ministry appealed the Borough’s decision to the superior court. The court remanded the issue to the Borough’s assessor for more detailed findings, instructed the ministry that any appeal following remand should be made to the Board of Equalization rather than superior court, and closed the case. The assessor issued new findings justifying the partial revocation of the tax exemption, and the ministry appealed to both the Board and the superior court (in a different case). The ministry also filed a motion in the first appeal asking the superior court to enforce its order instructing that appeals be made to the Board. The superior court issued a sua sponte order granting the ministry’s first appeal on the merits, finding “that the assessor [did not] rely on sufficient evidence to revoke [the ministry’s] tax exempt status.” The Borough appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded that following remand, supplemental Board findings, and a new appeal from those findings, the superior court lacked the subject matter jurisdiction to decide the ministry’s first appeal on the merits. The Supreme Court therefore vacate its decision granting Victory’s appeal. View "Fairbanks North Star Borough v. Victory Ministries of Alaska, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means (“the Chairman”) invoked Section 6103(f)(1) in a writing to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue (“the 2019 Request”). The Chairman requested the federal income tax returns of then-President Donald J. Trump and that of his related companies and organizations (collectively “the Trump Parties”). The Department of the Treasury responded that it did not intend to comply with the 2019 Request because it was not supported by a legitimate legislative purpose. Later the Treasury informed the district court and the Trump Parties that it intended to comply with the 2021 Request and provide the Committee with the requested materials. The Trump Parties alleged that Section 6103(f)(1) is facially unconstitutional and that compliance with the Request would be a violation of the First Amendment.The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the 2021 Request seeks information that may inform the United States House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means as to the efficacy of the Presidential Audit Program, and therefore, was made in furtherance of a subject upon which legislation could be had. Further, the Request did not violate the separation of powers principles under any of the potentially applicable tests primarily because the burden on the Executive Branch and the Trump Parties is relatively minor. Finally, Section 6103(f)(1) is not facially unconstitutional because there are many circumstances under which it can be validly applied, and Treasury’s decision to comply with the Request did not violate the Trump Parties’ First Amendment rights. View "Committee on Ways and Means, United States House of Representatives v. TREA" on Justia Law

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Donna Fisher lived in a mobilehome located in The Groves mobilehome residential community in Irvine, California. In 2011, Fisher filed a verified assessment appeal application with the Assessment Appeals Board No. 3 (the Board) for the County of Orange (the County) contesting the County Assessor’s assessment of the value of the land upon which her mobilehome was sitting for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. She argued the property had suffered a decline in value. Following extensive hearings, the Board issued its findings of fact and determination denying Fisher’s application. Fisher filed suit against the County to challenge the Board’s decision and sought a refund for overpayment of taxes in the amount of $739 for the underlying real property of her mobilehome. Following trial, the trial court issued a statement of decision rejecting Fisher’s challenges to the Board’s findings of fact and determination and entered judgment in favor of the County. Fisher again appealed, but the Court of Appeal affirmed, finding no reversible error. View "Fisher v. County of Orange" on Justia Law

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The Alaska Department of Revenue audited a non-resident corporation doing business in Alaska. The Department issued a deficiency assessment based in part on an Alaska tax statute requiring an income tax return to include certain foreign corporations affiliated with the taxpaying corporation. The taxpayer exhausted its administrative remedies and then appealed to the superior court, arguing that the tax statute the Department applied was facially unconstitutional because: (1) it violated the dormant Commerce Clause by discriminating against foreign commerce based on countries’ corporate income tax rates; (2) it violated the Due Process Clause by being arbitrary and irrational; and (3) it violated the Due Process Clause by failing to provide notice of what affiliates a tax return must include, and therefore is void for vagueness. The superior court rejected the first two arguments but ruled in the taxpayer’s favor on the third argument. The Department appealed, claiming the superior court erred by concluding that the statute was void for vagueness in violation of the Due Process Clause. The taxpayer cross-appealed, asserting that the court erred by concluding that the statute did not violate the Commerce Clause and was not arbitrary. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s decision that the statute was facially unconstitutional on due process grounds, and affirmed the court’s decision that it otherwise was facially constitutional. View "Alaska Dept. of Revenue v. Nabors International Finance, Inc. et al." on Justia Law