Justia Tax Law Opinion Summaries

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A mining company appealed the borough assessor’s valuation of its mine to the borough board of equalization. At a hearing the company presented a detailed report arguing the borough had improperly included the value of “capitalized waste stripping”when calculating the tax-assessed value of the mine. The assessor maintained its position that waste stripping was taxable, but reduced its valuation of the mine to better reflect the remaining life of the mine. The board approved the assessor’s reduced valuation of the mine and the superior court affirmed the board’s decision. The mine owners argued that waste stripping fell within a statutory exemption from taxation. The Alaska Supreme Court construed municipal taxing power broadly, and read exceptions to that power narrowly. The Court found waste stripping was not a “natural resource,” but an improvement that made it easier for miners to access natural resources. The Court concluded that the value of this improvement, like that of other improvements at the mine site, was subject to tax by the borough. The Court therefore affirmed the superior court’s decision affirming the board’s valuation. View "Fairbanks Gold Mining, Inc. vs. Fairbanks North Star Borough Assessor" on Justia Law

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The real estate taxes on Brown’s mineral rights were not paid. In 2013, the Hamilton County collector sold the delinquent taxes. Castleman extended the taxes’ redemption date to October 10, 2015, and filed a petition for a tax deed on June 22, 2015. An October 2015 order under Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/22-40(a)) directed the clerk to issue a tax deed to Castleman. Castleman assigned the tax sale certificate to Groome. Brown sold the mineral rights to SI by quitclaim deed. In November 2015, SI moved to vacate the section 22-40(a) order. The trial court dismissed for lack of standing. Meanwhile, Groome recorded a tax deed in February 2016. In June 2017, SI sought a writ of mandamus against the Hamilton County clerk who conceded that the 2016 Groome deed did not comport with the underlying section 22-40(a) order, which directed the deed to be issued to Castleman. The court granted SI’s requests. Castleman and Groome were not parties in the mandamus proceedings.The appellate court found the motion to vacate the section 22-40(a) order "a nullity.” The Hamilton County clerk issued Castleman a “Corrective Tax Deed” in October 2017, in compliance with the original section 22-40(a) order. SI filed a “Section 22-85 Motion to Void Tax Deed” and a “[Section] 2-1401/22-45 Petition to Vacate the October 2015 Order Directing Issuance of Tax Deed.” The appellate court affirmed the dismissal of both counts.The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. A tax deed issued and was recorded within the mandatory time limit. The deed’s failure to name the proper party created a conflict between the deed and the section 22-40(a) order. While timely filing may result in the tax deed becoming “absolutely void,” 35 ILCS 200/22-85, the conflict with the order does not. The court’s mandamus order is properly viewed as reforming and correcting the 2016 tax deed to comport with the section 22-40(a) order. View "In re Application for a Tax Deed" on Justia Law

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In filing mortgage foreclosure cases, the plaintiffs each paid a $50 “add on” filing fee under section 15-1504.1 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of section 15-1504.1 and of sections 7.30 and 7.31 of the Illinois Housing Development Act, 20 ILCS 3805/7.30, 7.31, which created foreclosure prevention and property rehabilitation programs funded by the fee.The trial court, following a remand, held that the fee violated the equal protection, due process, and uniformity clauses of the Illinois Constitution of 1970. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, finding that the fee violates the constitutional right to obtain justice freely. The $50 filing charge established under section 15-1504.1, although called a “fee,” is, in fact, a litigation tax; it has no direct relation to expenses of a petitioner’s litigation and no relation to the services rendered. The court determined that the plaintiffs paid the fee under duress; the voluntary payment doctrine did not apply. View "Walker v. Chasteen" on Justia Law

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California cigarette tax regulations apply to inter-tribal sales of cigarettes by a federally chartered tribal corporation wholly owned by a federally recognized Indian tribe.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by Big Sandy, a chartered tribal corporation wholly owned and controlled by the Big Sandy Rancheria of Western Mono Indians, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the Attorney General of California and the Director of the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration regarding taxes applied to inter-tribal sales of cigarettes.The panel concluded that the district court properly dismissed the Corporation's fifth cause of action on jurisdictional grounds pursuant to the Tax Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. 1341, and properly declined to apply the Indian tribes exception to the Tax Injunction Act's jurisdictional bar. The panel also concluded that the district court properly dismissed the Corporation's remaining causes of action challenging the Directory Statute and California's licensing, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements in connection with cigarette distribution. In this case, the Corporation challenged the Directory Law on two grounds: (1) applying the challenged regulations to the Corporation's cigarette sales to tribal retailers on other reservations violates "principles of Indian tribal self-governance;" and (ii) federal regulation of "trade with Indians within Indian country" under the Indian Trader Statutes preempts the challenged regulations as applied to the Corporation's intertribal wholesale cigarette business. The panel concluded that the district court properly dismissed both theories for failure to state a claim. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. View "Big Sandy Rancheria Enterprises v. Bonta" on Justia Law

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An oil producer challenged an Alaska Department of Revenue advisory bulletin interpreting the oil tax code, arguing that the bulletin violated the Alaska Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and seeking a declaratory judgment that the interpretation was contrary to law. The Alaska Supreme Court determined the advisory bulletin could not be challenged under the APA because it was not a regulation, and that a declaratory judgment was not available because the tax dispute between the parties was not ripe. View "Exxon Mobil Corporation v. Alaska, Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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In this tax exemption case concerning privately owned real property in Galveston County the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Galveston Central Appraisal District, holding that Odyssey 2020 Academy was not entitled to an exemption from the ad valorem tax.The property at issue was subleased by Odyssey, which used the property to operate a public charter school. Odyssey contractually agreed to pay the property owners' ad valorem taxes and requested that the Galveston Central Appraisal District exempt the property from taxation as "property owned by this state" under section 11.11(a) of the Tax Code. The District denied the exemption request. On review, the district court granted summary judgment for the District. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, on these facts, the Constitution does not merit an exemption for Odyssey. View "Odyssey 2020 Academy, Inc. v. Galveston Central Appraisal District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that an IRS transfer certificate is not necessary to transfer ownership of her account with Fidelity. The district court sua sponte dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that such a declaration would necessarily involve a determination with respect to federal taxes.The Fifth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the Declaratory Judgment Act's federal-tax exception is a jurisdictional condition, requiring dismissal, rather than a nonjurisdictional condition, which may be waived. In this case, because the requested relief—declaring that plaintiff was not required to provide a transfer certificate to Fidelity—necessarily involves a determination with respect to federal taxes, the district court properly dismissed her action for lack of jurisdiction. View "Rivero v. Fidelity Investments, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit agreed with the tax court and held that taxpayers were not entitled to a new hearing because a revenue officer included notes and correspondence about a meeting with their attorney in the official file that was later made available to the settlement officer who reviewed the case. The court explained that, under the administrative-file rule, contemporaneous statements may permissibly be included in the file as long as they are pertinent to the revenue officer's consideration of the case, even if they would otherwise be prohibited. In this case, there is no dispute that the statements in the notes and letters were contemporaneous. Furthermore, the statements were not gratuitous. Therefore, taxpayers are not entitled to a new hearing. View "Stewart v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's determination that Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways (collectively, Southwest) does not qualify for the "hub facility" property tax exemption, holding that Southwest was not entitled to the hub facility exemption.The hub facility provision exempts from property taxes all property of an air carrier company if the company operated at least forty-five common carrier departing flights each weekday in the prior year from a facility at a Wisconsin airport. On appeal, Southwest argued that, under a strict but reasonable interpretation of Wis. Stat. 70.11(42)(a)2.a, it was entitled to the property tax exemption for both its 2013 and 2014 tax assessments. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Southwest did not operate forty-five departing flights on each weekday without exception, Southwest was not entitled to the hub facility exemption for either the 2013 or 2014 property tax assessment. View "Southwest Airlines Co. v. State Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit joined its sister circuits in concluding that, when Congress expressly departs from substance-over-form principles, the Commissioner may not invoke those principles in a way that would directly reverse that congressional judgment.The panel reversed the tax court's decision in favor of the Commissioner on a petition for redetermination of federal excise tax deficiency where petitioners established a Foreign Sales Corporation to reduce the tax paid on income that was then distributed as dividends to Roth Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). The panel concluded that the unusual statutory provisions at issue here expressly elevated form over substance in the relevant respects, and thus the tax court erred by invoking substance-over-form principles to effectively reverse that congressional judgment and to disallow what the statute plainly allowed. View "Mazzei v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law