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Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a nonprofit organization, “[t]akes legal action challenging entanglement of religion and government, government endorsement or promotion of religion.” FFRF paid its co-presidents a portion of their salaries in the form of a housing allowance, seeking to challenge 26 U.S.C. 107, which provides: In the case of a minister of the gospel, gross income does not include— (1) the rental value of a home furnished to him as part of his compensation; or (2) the rental allowance paid to him as part of his compensation, to the extent used by him to rent or provide a home. Having unsuccessfully sought refunds from the IRS based on section 107 they sued. The district court granted FFRF and its employees summary judgment, finding that the statute violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Seventh Circuit reversed, applying the “Lemon” test. The law has secular purposes: it is one of many per se rules that provide a tax exemption to employees with work-related housing requirements; it is intended to avoid discrimination against certain religions in favor of others and to avoid excessive entanglement with religion by preventing the IRS from conducting intrusive inquiries into how religious organizations use their facilities. Providing a tax exemption does not “connote[] sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement of the [government] in religious activity.” FFRF offered no evidence that provisions like section 107(2) were historically viewed as an establishment of religion. View "Gaylor v. Peecher" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the tax court's decision to sustain a deficiency against an estate for overstating the amount of a charitable deduction and to sustain an accuracy-related penalty. In Ahmanson Foundation v. United States, 674 F.2d 761, 772 (9th Cir. 1981), the panel underscored the principle that the testator may only be allowed a deduction for estate tax purposes for what was actually received by the charity. Applying Ahmanson, the panel held that the tax court correctly considered the difference between the deduction and the property actually received by the charity due to the executor's manipulation of the redemption appraisal value. The panel also found nothing in the record that suggested that the tax court's findings were clearly erroneous. Finally, there was no error in the tax court's holding that the commissioner properly imposed the accuracy-related penalty under I.R.C. 6662(a). View "Dieringer v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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The State of New Hampshire appealed a superior court order following a ten-day bench trial granting judgment to the defendants, the direct or indirect subsidiaries of Priceline.com, Inc., Orbitz, LLC, Expedia, Inc., and Travelocity.com, LLP, alleging that: (1) they violated the New Hampshire Meals and Rooms Tax Law by failing to remit meals and rooms taxes on transactions with hotel consumers and by bundling money collected from consumers as taxes with other amounts; and (2) the bundling of taxes with other fees also violated the New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Online travel companies (OTCs) use either the “agency” or the “merchant” model to conduct business. Under the agency model, the consumer pays the hotel directly for the room; the hotel then pays the OTC a commission for the booking and remits to the State the meals and rooms tax on the full amount received from the consumer. Under the merchant model, the consumer pays the OTC for the room; the OTC collects payment from the consumer using the consumer’s credit card. The OTC, therefore, is the merchant of record. The hotel then has a certain number of days in which to send an invoice to the OTC for the net rate of the hotel room and the meals and rooms tax on that rate. The parties disputed whether the OTCs were subject to the meals and rooms tax law. The trial court ruled that OTCs were not subject to the law because they are not “operators” of hotels. The State challenged the trial court's conclusion that OTCs were not subject to the law as "operators." The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the State failed to show the trial court erred in its ruling as to the CPA. View "New Hampshire v. Priceline.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2010, the Internal Revenue Service issued a refund to the Wichita Center of Graduate Medical Education (a federally qualified charitable organization) on overpaid taxes along with incorrectly calculated interest on the refund. The IRS then sought repayment of part of the interest. Under the Internal Revenue Code, corporate taxpayers received a lower refund interest rate than other taxpayers such as individuals or partnerships. The Center claimed it was not a corporation for purposes of this section and was be entitled to the higher interest rate applicable to non-corporations. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s finding that the Center was a corporation and subject to the lower interest rate: the statutory text compelled the conclusion that the Center, even though it did not issue stock or generate profit, had to be treated as an ordinary corporation for purposes of the refund statute. View "Wichita Ctr for Grad Med. Ed. v. United States" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of the efforts the IRS made to investigate the tax liability of High Desert Relief, Inc. (“HDR”), a medical marijuana dispensary in New Mexico. The IRS began an investigation into whether HDR had improperly paid its taxes, and specifically whether it had improperly taken deductions for business expenses that arose from a “trade or business” that “consists of trafficking in controlled substances.” Because HDR refused to furnish the IRS with requested audit information, the IRS issued four summonses to third parties in an attempt to obtain the relevant materials by other means. HDR filed separate petitions to quash these third-party summonses in federal district court in the District of New Mexico, and the government filed corresponding counterclaims seeking enforcement of the summonses. HDR argued that the summonses were issued for an improper purpose—specifically, that the IRS, in seeking to determine the applicability of 26 U.S.C. 280E, was mounting a de facto criminal investigation pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act. HDR also asserted that enforcement of section 280E was improper because an "official [federal] policy of non-enforcement” of the CSA against medical marijuana dispensaries had rendered that statute’s proscription on marijuana trafficking a “dead letter” incapable of engendering adverse tax consequences for HDR. The petitions were resolved in proceedings before two different district court judges; both judges ruled in favor of the United States on the petitions to quash, and separately granted the United States’ motions to enforce the summonses. HDR challenged these rulings on appeal. The Tenth Circuit determined HDR was unable to overcome the government’s demonstration of good faith under United States v. Powell, 379 U.S. 48 (1964), and its alternative “dead letter” argument was without merit. View "High Desert Relief v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the writ of mandamus sought by the St. Clair Township Board of Trustees (St. Clair) seeking to compel the City of Hamilton and its officers (Hamilton) to calculate and pay lost tax revenue associated with territory that was annexed to the city before March 27, 2002 but not excluded from the township until 2016, holding that St. Clair was not entitled to relief. On March 27, 2002, S.B. 5 became effective. Under Ohio Rev. Code 709.19(B), as amended by S.B. 5, a municipality was to pay a township for lost tax revenue associated with the municipality’s annexation of territory of any township only when territory had been annexed and excluded as prescribed by Ohio Rev. Code 503.07, with the payments commencing upon exclusion. In 2016, the General Assembly repealed the S.B. 5 version of section 709.19. After the current version of section 709.19 took effect, the city created Hamilton Township, which consisted of the parts of the townships, including St. Clair, that the city annexed before the effective date of S.B. 5. Thereafter, St. Clair sought lost-tax-revenue payments from Hamilton. Hamilton refused to pay. St. Clair sought a writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that St. Clear did not establish a clear legal right to the relief requested. View "State ex rel. St. Clair Township Board of Trustees v. Hamilton" on Justia Law

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In this consolidated appeal from twenty-nine General Excise Tax (GET) assessments levied by the State Director of Taxation against five online travel companies based on car rental transactions taking place in the State between 2000 and 2013, the Supreme Court held that rental cars are tourism-related services and that the assessed transactions qualified for the reduced GET rate based only on the portion of the proceeds that the online travel companies retained. The online travel companies in this case argued (1) the majority of the assessments were barred because they already litigated their GET liability for the years 2000 through 2013 to final judgment in an earlier case; and (2) the rental car transactions should qualify for a reduced GET rate calculated based only on the portion of the proceeds that they retained because rental cars are “tourism-related services” within the meaning of a statutory income-reducing provision. The Supreme Court held (1) the assessments could be considered on the merits because the claim preclusion component of res judicata is not an available defense against the government’s sovereign power of taxation; and (2) car rentals are tourism-related services that qualify for GET apportionment under the circumstances of this case. View "In re Tax Appeal of Priceline.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court and court of appeal sustaining Defendants’ demurrer in this case, holding that customers who have paid sales tax reimbursement on purchases they believe to be exempt from sales tax are not authorized to file suit to compel the retailers to seek a tax refund from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (Department) when there has been no determination by the Department or a court that the purchases are exempt. A customer who has paid excess sales tax reimbursement has no statutory remedy to obtain a refund from the Department directly. In Javor v. State Board of Equalization, 12 Cal.3d 790 (1974), however, the Supreme Court authorized a customer suit to compel certain retailers to seek a tax refund where the Board of Equalization, upon determining that the retailers had collected excess sales tax reimbursement, had promulgated rules to provide refunds to overpaying customers. The lower courts declined to extend Javor to authorize a similar judicial remedy under the circumstances of this case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that plaintiffs in this case did not have an equitable cause of action to compel the retailers to seek a refund of sales taxes paid to the State. View "McClain v. Sav-On Drugs" on Justia Law

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Loos sued BNSF under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act for injuries he received while working at BNSF’s railyard. A jury awarded him $126,212.78, ascribing $30,000 to lost wages. BNSF asserted that the lost wages constituted “compensation” taxable under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act (RRTA) and asked to withhold $3,765 of the $30,000. The district court and the Eighth Circuit rejected the requested offset. The Supreme Court reversed. A railroad’s payment to an employee for work time lost due to an on-the-job injury is taxable “compensation” under the RRTA. RRTA refers to the railroad’s contribution as an “excise” tax, 26 U. S. C. 3221, and the employee’s share as an “income” tax, section 3201. Taxes under the RRTA and benefits under the Railroad Retirement Act, 45 U.S.C. 231, are measured by the employee’s “compensation,” which both statutes define as “any form of money remuneration paid to an individual for services rendered as an employee.” The Court noted similar results under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act and the Social Security Act. View "BNSF Railway Co. v. Loos" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of tax return preparers, filed a class action challenging the IRS's requirement that preparers pay a fee to obtain and renew their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). The DC Circuit held that the IRS acted within its authority under the Independent Offices Appropriations Act in charging tax return preparers a fee to obtain and renew PTINs. The court also held that the IRS's decision to charge the fee was not arbitrary and capricious, because the IRS sufficiently rooted its decision to assess a PTIN fee in justifications independent of those rejected in Loving v. IRS, 742 F.3d 1013 (D.C. Cir. 2014). In this case, the IRS explained that the fee was based on direct costs of the PTIN program. Therefore, the court vacated the judgment of the district court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Montrois v. United States" on Justia Law