Justia Tax Law Opinion Summaries

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First Student, Inc., a school bus contractor, sought to reverse a Court of Appeals decision to affirm dismissal of its business and occupation ("B&O") tax refund action. At issue was whether First Student's transporting of students qualified as transporting persons "for hire" such that it made First Student subject to the public utility tax ("PUT") rather than the general B&O tax. The Washington Supreme Court found the meaning of "for hire" was ambiguous as used in the PUT, but resolved the ambiguity in favor of the long-standing interpretation that school buses were excluded from the definitions of "motor transportation business" and "urban transportation business" under RCW 82.16.010(6) and (12). The Court found that WAC 458-20-180 was a valid interpretation of the statute, and affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "First Student, Inc. v. Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Insurance executive Menzies sold over $64 million in his company’s stock but did not report any capital gains on his 2006 federal income tax return. He alleges that his underpayment of capital gains taxes (and related penalties and interest imposed by the IRS) was because of a fraudulent tax shelter peddled to him and others by a lawyer, law firm, and financial services firms. Menzies brought claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and Illinois law. The district court dismissed all claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part. Menzies’s RICO claim falls short on the statute’s pattern-of-racketeering element. Menzies failed to plead not only the particulars of how the defendants marketed the same or a similar tax shelter to other taxpayers, but also facts to support a finding that the alleged racketeering activity would continue. A fraudulent tax shelter scheme can violate RICO; the shortcoming here is one of pleading and it occurred after the district court authorized discovery to allow Menzies to develop his claims. Menzies’s Illinois state law claims were untimely as to the lawyer and law firm defendants. The claims against the remaining financial services defendants can proceed. View "Menzies v. Seyfarth Shaw LLP" on Justia Law

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Norman, a school teacher, opened a “numbered” Swiss bank account with UBS in 1999. Statements for the account list only the account number, not Norman’s name or address. From 2001-2008, her balance ranged between $1.5 million-$2.5 million. Norman was actively involved in managing and controlling her account. She gave UBS investment instructions and prohibited UBS from investing in U.S. securities on her behalf, which helped prevent disclosure of her account to the IRS. She took withdrawals in cash. In 2008, Norman expressed displeasure when she was informed of UBS’s decision to “no longer provide offshore banking” and to work “with the US Government to identify the names of US clients who may have engaged in tax fraud.” Just before UBS publicly announced this plan, Norman closed her UBS account, transferring her funds to another foreign bank. Under 31 U.S.C. 5314(a), U.S. persons who have relationships with foreign financial agencies are required to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) with the Treasury Department. When the IRS discovered her account during an audit, Norman initially expressed shock to learn that she had a foreign account and subsequently tried to claim that she did not control the account. The Federal Circuit affirmed a Claims Court finding that Norman willfully failed to file an FBAR in 2007 and the IRS properly assessed a penalty of $803,530 for this failure. View "Norman v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Gaetanos run a cannabis dispensary. After a failed business transaction, a third party sued the Gaetanos and their attorney, Goodman, and filed a disciplinary complaint against Goodman. An ethics inquiry uncovered multiple violations. Goodman lost his license to practice law. The Gaetanos severed their relationship with him. The IRS later audited the Gaetanos’ tax returns and contacted Goodman for assistance. Goodman threatened the Gaetanos that unless they gave him a “significant down-payment” he would see them “take[n] down”. They did not oblige, Goodman sent menacing emails. The Gaetanos contacted the IRS. Goodman assured the IRS that his information was not privileged but was obtained through on-line searches and a private investigator; he discussed several aspects of the Gaetanos’ business. Goodman then taunted the Gaetanos, who again notified the IRS. The Gaetanos filed suit, seeking to stop the government from discussing privileged information with Goodman and requiring it to destroy attorney-client confidences. The IRS asserted that the court lacked jurisdiction, citing the Anti-Injunction Act, 26 U.S.C. 7421(a). The Sixth Circuit agreed that the Act bars the lawsuit; the “Williams Packing” exception does not apply. The exception requires that the taxpayer show that under no circumstances could the government prevail against their claims and that “equity jurisdiction otherwise exists.” The Gaetanos have not identified any privileged information that Goodman provided to the IRS and have adequate remedies at law. View "Gaetano v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Institute filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking information related to all records contained in the IRS's Asset Forfeiture Tracking and Retrieval System (AFTRAK). The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the IRS, holding that whether the Open/Closed Report covers all records "contained in" AFTRAK was itself a material, genuinely disputed question of fact, and the answer in turn depended on other disputed and material facts. The court also held that whether AFTRAK was correctly classified as a database, a matter on which the IRS's Manual and other official documents contradict its legal denial here, appeared to be an intermediate fact with potential consequences for resolving the parties' claims. View "Institute For Justice v. IRS" on Justia Law

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In this tax assessment dispute the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the trial court's judgments in two cases consolidated for trial, holding that a real estate appraiser need not be licensed in Virginia to offer expert testimony in a tax assessment dispute and that the taxpayer failed to meet its burden of proving that the assessment overvalued the subject property. Virginia International Gateway, Inc.'s (VIG) believed the assessments for its real and personal property were above fair market value and filed separate applications to correct the 2015-16 real estate and personal property assessments. At trial, VIG offered expert testimony to support its position that the actual fair market value of the real property was lower than the City of Portsmouth's assessment. The trial court did not recognize the appraiser as an expert because he lacked Virginia licensure at the time of trial. The trial court ultimately dismissed both of VIG's applications. The Supreme Court reversed the real estate case but affirmed the personal property case, holding (1) the trial court's exclusion of the appraiser's testimony was an abuse of discretion; but (2) the trial court did not err in ruling that VIG failed to overcome the presumption of the personal property assessment's correctness. View "Virginia International Gateway v. City of Portsmouth" on Justia Law

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Defendant County of Placer sold plaintiff Patrick Hodges’s real property at a tax sale. The County later paid plaintiff the excess proceeds remaining from the sale less payments made to others. Plaintiff contended the County, its board of supervisors, and its treasurer breached a fiduciary duty they owed him, and converted his personal property, when they did not audit a payment made from the proceeds to others and did not pay him interest or earnings on its investment of the proceeds while it held them in trust. The trial court sustained the County’s demurrer to plaintiff’s second amended complaint without leave to amend and entered a judgment of dismissal. The trial court determined plaintiff could not state a claim for breach of a fiduciary relationship because no such relationship existed between him and the County. Even if a fiduciary relationship existed, plaintiff did not allege any breach or any damages arising from a breach. The court also found plaintiff could not state a claim for conversion. He did not allege the County committed a wrongful act in withholding the excess proceeds or that it interfered with his possession of the proceeds. After the Court of Appeal concurred with the trial court and affirmed its judgment. View "Hodges v. County of Placer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this petition for relief seeking to direct Nueces County and the Nueces County Appraisal District to withdraw and cease from issuing tax assessments to Corpus Christi Liquefaction, LLC (CCL), holding that under the circumstances of this case, the Texas Constitution does not permit the Court to exercise the jurisdiction conferred by Tex. Loc. Gov't Code 72.010. For several years, both Nueces County and San Patricio County have taxed structures that are built on land in San Patricio County and extend over the water into Nueces County. In 2017, the Legislature enacted section 72.010, allowing taxpayers who have paid taxes on the same property to each county to sue in the Supreme Court for relief. In this petition, CCL asserted that it was being taxed in both counties on the same property. The Nueces parties, however, argued that three disputed fact issues precluded the Supreme Court's exercise of section 72.010 jurisdiction in this case. The Supreme Court dismissed the petition without prejudice, holding that the parties' disputes over the nature of CCL's facility in relation to the counties' boundary were significant and required resolution. View "In re Corpus Christi Liquefaction, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Wyoming Board of Equalization affirming the determination of the Department of Revenue that Delcon Partners, LLC's purchase of a portion of Delcon, Inc's tangible and intangible assets was not exempt from sales tax, holding that the Department correctly concluded that the transaction was not excluded from the definition of "sale" under Wyo. Stat. Ann. 39-15-101(a)(vii)(N) and was subject to sales tax. Delcon Partners purchased twenty-eight percent of Delcon, Inc's assets. The Department determined that the transaction was not exempt from sales tax because Delcon Partners did not purchase at least eighty percent of the total value of the assets, including cash and accounts receivable. The Board affirmed. Delcon appealed, arguing that section 39-15-101(a)(vii)(N) should be interpreted to require only a purchase of eighty percent of a seller's tangible personal property rather than eighty percent of its total Wyoming assets. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the statute plainly conditions exclusion from the definition of "sale" on the purchase of at least eighty percent of the value of all of a business entity's assets located in Wyoming, which did not happen in this case. View "Delcon Partners LLC v. Wyoming Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Taxpayers, West Virginia non-stock, not-for-profit, 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3) organizations, are generally exempt from federal income tax but are not exempt from taxes on “wages” from “employment” under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). “Employment” under FICA has a broad definition but excepts service performed in the employ of a school by a student who is regularly enrolled and attending classes at the same school, 26 U.S.C. 3121(b)(10). In 2010, the IRS determined that medical residents fall within that exception, applied the determination retroactively, and issued tax refunds to the Taxpayers. The IRS paid interest on these tax refunds, applying the interest rate for corporations under 26 U.S.C. 6621(a)(1). If the IRS had used the interest rate for noncorporations, the Taxpayers would have received approximately $1.9 million in additional statutory interest. The Claims Court affirmed, reasoning that the Taxpayers are corporations under section 6621(a)(1) notwithstanding their nonprofit status. The Federal Circuit affirmed, agreeing with other circuits that an entity incorporated under state law is a corporation within the meaning of the Code. The Code addresses three basic types of corporations: nonprofit corporations covered by subchapter F; certain for-profit corporations covered by subchapter C; and certain for-profit corporations covered by subchapter S. In section 6621, Congress used the generic definition of “corporation,” which includes both for-profit and nonprofit entities. View "Charleston Area Medical Center, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law