Justia Tax Law Opinion Summaries

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The estate of Helene Evans, a deceased Oregon resident, challenged the Oregon Tax Court’s determination that the Department of Revenue lawfully included in Evans’s taxable Oregon estate the principal assets of a Montana trust, of which Evans had been the income beneficiary. Although Evans had a right to receive income generated by those assets during her lifetime and potentially had the right to tap the assets themselves, the estate claimed she had not owned, and did not have control over the assets. Under those circumstances, plaintiff argued, Oregon did not have the kind of connection to the trust assets that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution required for a state to impose a tax on a person, property, or transaction. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that Oregon’s imposition of its estate tax on the trust assets in this case comported with the requirements of due process. It, therefore, affirmed the judgment of the Tax Court. View "Estate of Evans v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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Taxpayers for Michigan Constitutional Government and several individuals brought an original action to the Court of Appeals against the state of Michigan; the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget; and the Office of the Auditor General to enforce section 30 of the Headlee Amendment, Const 1963, art 9, which prohibited the state from reducing its budget for total state spending paid to all units of local government, taken as a group, below that proportion in effect in fiscal year 1978–1979. Plaintiffs: (Count I) alleged the state violated section 30 by classifying as state spending paid to local government monies paid to school districts pursuant to Proposal A, Const 1963, art 9, section 11; (Count II) alleged the same assertion as to monies paid to public school academies (PSAs) pursuant to Proposal A and MCL 380.501(1); (Count III) alleged the state improperly classified as section 30 state spending those funds paid to maintain trunk-line roads; and (Count IV) sought a determination that state funds directed to local governments for new state mandates could not be counted toward the proportion of state funds required by section 30. The Court of Appeal dismissed Count III without prejudice upon stipulation of the parties; all parties moved for summary judgment on the remaining claims. The appellate court granted the state defendants motion on Counts I and II; plaintiffs' motion was granted as to Count IV. Finally, the court granted plaintiffs mandamus relief and directed the state to comply with reporting requirements found in MCL 21.235(3) and MCL 21.241. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded the appellate court erred when it held that PSAs were “school districts” as the term was used in the Headlee Amendment. Further, the Court held PSAs were themselves not a “political subdivision of the state” as voters would have understood the term when the Headlee Amendment was ratified. The Court thus reversed the conclusion reached in Part III(C) of the Court of Appeals opinion that PSAs were “school districts” and remanded to the Court of Appeals for its reconsideration of this issue. The Supreme Court vacated the panel’s grant of mandamus in Part III(E), and directed the Court of Appeals to provide further explanation of its decision to grant this extraordinary remedy. View "Taxpayers for Michigan Constitutional Govt. v. Michigan" on Justia Law

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Joseph Wilson, the sole owner and beneficiary of a foreign trust, filed his returns for tax year 2007 late, the IRS assessed a 35% penalty that applies to beneficiaries of foreign trusts, and Wilson paid the penalty. After his death, plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of Wilson's estate for a refund, arguing that the IRS should have imposed only a 5% penalty that applies to owners of foreign trusts. The district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs.The Second Circuit vacated the district court's judgment, holding that when an individual is both the sole owner and beneficiary of a foreign trust and fails to timely report distributions she received from the trust, the government has the authority under the Internal Revenue Code to impose a 35% penalty. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. The court denied motions for leave to file a supplemental appendix that includes documents outside the record on appeal and for leave to file a sur-reply brief as moot. View "Wilson v. United States" on Justia Law

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Proposition 13 and Proposition 218 amended the California Constitution to require that any special tax adopted by a local government entity take effect only if approved by a two-thirds vote of the electorate. The court of appeal recently interpreted these constitutional provisions “as coexisting with, not displacing, the people’s power to enact initiatives by majority vote” and held that a measure placed on the ballot as a local citizens’ initiative requires a majority, not a supermajority, vote to pass.Sixty percent of San Franciscans voting on Proposition G— an initiative entitled “Parcel Tax for San Francisco Unified School District”—approved the measure. San Francisco filed suit to establish that Proposition G was valid. The complaint against “All Persons Interested” was answered by Nowak, who argued that Proposition G is invalid because it failed to garner the two-thirds vote required by Proposition 13 and Proposition 218. Nowak also contended that a provision of Proposition 218 unique to parcel taxes, (art. XIII D, 3(a)), requires a two-thirds vote of the electorate to enact Proposition G. Nowak sought to distinguish the earlier decisions on the grounds that Proposition G was conceived and promoted by local government officials and was not a valid citizens’ initiative. The court of appeal rejected all of Nowak’s arguments, standing by its earlier decisions. View "City & County of San Francisco v. All Persons Interested in Matter of Prop. G" on Justia Law

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The federal government sought to encourage delinquent taxpayers to pay up: by threatening to withhold or revoke their passports until their tax delinquency was resolved. No nexus between international travel and the tax delinquency needed to be shown; the passport revocation served only to incentivize repayment of the tax debt. A challenge to the constitutionality of this approach was a matter of first impression; appellant Jeffrey Maehr was one such taxpayer whose passport was revoked for non-payment of taxes. He argued the revocation violated substantive due process, ran afoul of principles announced in the Privileges and Immunities clauses, and contradicted caselaw concerning the common law principle of ne exeat republica. The district court rejected these challenges. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court on each of these arguments. View "Maehr v. U.S. Department of State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) dismissing these appeals of final determinations of the tax commissioner on the grounds that they were untimely, holding that Am.Sub.H.B. No. 197 tolled the time limitation for filing the appeals, and Appellant filed the notices of appeal with both the tax commissioner and the BTA during the tolling period.On April 29, 2020, the tax commissioner journalized his final determinations upholding the tax assessments in each case. Service was completed by certified mail on May 4, 2020. Appellant delivered a notice of appeal to the tax department on June 26, 2020. The next day Appellant filed the notices of appeal with the BTA. The BTA dismissed both appeals as untimely. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 22(A)(1)(c) of H.B. 197 tolled Appellant's appeal period and that Appellant's appeals were timely filed. View "Chapman Enterprises, Inc. v. McClain" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the IRS's motion to dismiss an action brought by plaintiff, seeking to recover penalties that he paid for filing late tax returns and making late tax payments for the 2012-2015 tax years. Plaintiff alleged that he was entitled to the "reasonable cause" exception to the otherwise mandatory penalties.The court concluded that plaintiff failed to sufficiently plead reasonable cause under I.R.C. 6651(a)(1)–(2) for exemption from the mandatory penalties where plaintiff could have used ordinary business care and prudence to assure that his taxes were filed and paid, much like he conducted business and employed a CPA while incarcerated. Likewise, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to demonstrate reasonable cause under I.R.C. 6654 for the same reasons. View "Lindsay v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-Appellants Walter “Gil” Goodrich (individually and in his capacity as the executor of his father—Henry Goodrich, Sr.’s— succession), Henry Goodrich, Jr., and Laura Goodrich Watts brought suit against Defendant-Appellee United States of America. Plaintiffs claimed that, in an effort to discharge Henry Sr.’s tax liability, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) wrongfully levied their property, which they had inherited from their deceased mother, Tonia Goodrich, subject to Henry Sr.’s usufruct. A magistrate judge previously determined Plaintiffs were not the owners of money seized by the IRS, and that represented the value of certain liquidated securities. The Fifth Circuit determined that whether Plaintiffs were in fact owners of the disputed funds was an issue governed by Louisiana law. The Fifth Circuit declined further review until the Louisiana Supreme Court had a chance to review the ownership issue in the first instance. View "Goodrich, et al v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming a decision of the State Board of Property Tax Review upholding the Town of Madison's denial of Madison Paper Industries' (MPI) request for a property tax abatement for the 2016-17 tax year, holding that the Board made no errors of law, and its findings were supported by competent evidence in the record.The Board found MPI's appraisal and its underlying factual assertions were not credible and that MPI had failed to meet its burden of persuasion. On appeal, MPI argued that the Board failed to apply the Maine Constitution's required that it apply the "just value" standard to valuing the property. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the Board's determinations were not erroneous and that its findings were supported by the evidence. View "Madison Paper Industries v. Town of Madison" on Justia Law

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Taxpayer Level 3 Communications, LLC (Level 3) challenged the Oregon Tax Court’s determination of the real market value of its tangible and intangible property for the 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 tax years. Level 3 argued that the Tax Court held that the central assessment statutory scheme permitted taxation of the entire enterprise value of the company, contrary to the wording of applicable statutes that permit taxation only of a centrally assessed corporation’s property. According to Level 3, the Tax Court applied that erroneous holding to incorrectly accept the Department of Revenue’s (the department’s) valuations of Level 3’s property for the relevant tax years. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded Level 3 misconstrued the Tax Court’s decision, and the Tax Court did not err by accepting the department’s valuations. Accordingly, the Tax Court’s judgment was affirmed. View "Level 3 Communications, LLC v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law