Justia Tax Law Opinion Summaries

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Oakland businesses must obtain a business tax certificate and pay business license taxes each year, based on the type of activities in which the business is engaged. A separate business tax certificate is required for each activity of the business unless the activity comprises less than 20 percent of the total gross receipts of the business. City tax authorities determine the appropriate business tax classifications based on the information reported by the taxpayer. Host held Port Department permits to occupy space and operate food, beverage, retail, and duty-free concessions at Oakland International Airport. The permits authorized Host to sublease its space to other parties with consent. In 2015, based on an audit of Host’s financial records, an auditor determined that Host owed Oakland unpaid business taxes, penalties, interest, and fees for rental income from subleases,2006-2015. Host had obtained a business certificate and paid business tax for its retail activities, but not for subleasing.Host unsuccessfully appealed, asserting that it was engaged only in retail sales (not commercial subleasing), that the 20 percent exception applied, and that Oakland could not collect some of the back taxes because of the statute of limitations. The Board, the trial court, and the court of appeal upheld the determination of a $371,195.40 tax liability. View "Host International, Inc. v. City of Oakland" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Merrimack Premium Outlets, LLC and Merrimack Premium Outlets Center, LLC, appealed, and defendant Town of Merrimack (Town), cross-appealed superior court orders in an action challenging the Town’s reassessment of taxable property. Merrimack Premium Outlets, LLC owned a large property in Merrimack (the Property) that it leased to Merrimack Premium Outlets Center, LLC. The latter entity operated a retail outlet shopping mall, known as the Merrimack Premium Outlets, on the Property. In 2016, the Town conducted a revaluation of all taxable property within the municipality. As a result, the Property was assessed at $86,549,400. Later that year, the Town became aware that the Property had been used in or about 2013 as collateral for a loan and had been valued for that purpose at $220,000,000. Based on this information, the Town believed that it had severely undervalued the Property. Accordingly, the Town reassessed the Property for the 2017 tax year at $154,149,500 (the 2017 reassessment). Plaintiffs then brought this action for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, alleging there were no changes in either the Property or the market that justified the 2017 reassessment. The superior court ruled in favor of the Town. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the trial court erred in ruling that the Town had the authority to correct its undervaluation of the Property by adjusting its assessment pursuant to RSA 75:8. Given this disposition, the Court did not address the parties' remaining arguments. View "Merrimack Premium Outlets, LLC et al. v. Town of Merrimack" on Justia Law

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Eighteen petitioners (the Taxpayers) appealed a New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) order issued following the New Hampshire Supreme Court's decision in Appeal of Keith R. Mader 2000 Revocable Trust, 173 N.H. 362 (2020). In that decision, the Supreme Court vacated the BTLA’s prior dismissal of the Taxpayers’ property tax abatement appeals and remanded for the BTLA to further consider whether the Taxpayers omitted their personal signatures and certifications on their tax abatement applications to respondent Town of Bartlett (Town), “due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.” On remand, the BTLA found that “based on the facts presented, the Taxpayers [had] not met their burden of proving the omission of their signatures and certifications was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect,” and again dismissed their appeals. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Keith R. Mader 2000 Revocable Trust, et al." on Justia Law

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Defendant Town of Windham (Town) appealed a superior court order denying its motion to dismiss the tax abatement appeal of plaintiff Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. (Shaw’s), for lack of standing. The Town also appealed the superior court's order granting Shaw’s requested tax abatement. The owner of the property at issue leased 1.5 acres of a 34.21-acre parcel in Windham established as Current Use. The lease, in relevant part, required Shaw’s to pay the Owner its pro rata share of the real estate taxes assessed on the entire parcel, and the Owner was required to pay the taxes to the Town. If the Owner received a tax abatement, Shaw’s was entitled to its pro rata share of the abatement. In 2017, Shaw’s was directed by the Owner to pay the property taxes directly to the Town, and it did. Shaw’s unsuccessfully applied to the Town’s selectboard for a tax abatement and subsequently appealed to the superior court. The Town moved to dismiss, arguing that Shaw’s lacked standing to request a tax abatement on property it did not own. Finding the superior court did not err in finding Shaw's had standing to seek the abatement, or err in granting the abatement, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's orders. View "Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc. v. Town of Windham" on Justia Law

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The 2012 Cook County Firearm Tax Ordinance imposed a $25 tax on the retail purchase of a firearm within Cook County. A 2015 amendment to the County Code included a tax on the retail purchase of firearm ammunition at the rate of $0.05 per cartridge for centerfire ammunition and $0.01 per cartridge for rimfire ammunition. The taxes levied on the retail purchaser are imposed in addition to all other taxes imposed by the County, Illinois, or any municipal corporation or political subdivision. The revenue generated from the tax on ammunition is directed to the Public Safety Fund; the revenue generated from the tax on firearms is not directed to any specified fund or program.Plaintiffs alleged that the taxes facially violate the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Illinois Constitution concerning the right to bear arms and the uniformity clause, and are preempted by the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act and the Firearm Concealed Carry Act. The trial court rejected the suit on summary judgment. The appellate court affirmed.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. To satisfy scrutiny under a uniformity challenge, where a tax classification directly bears on a fundamental right, the government must establish that the tax classification is substantially related to the object of the legislation. Under that level of scrutiny, the firearm and ammunition tax ordinances violate the uniformity clause. View "Guns Save Life, Inc. v. Ali" on Justia Law

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The IRS recorded liens for unpaid taxes, interest, and penalties against the debtors’ residence. After debtors filed for bankruptcy, the IRS filed a proof of claim. The portion of the claim that was secured by liens on the residence and attributable only to penalties was $162,000. The debtors filed an adversary proceeding, asserting that the IRS’s claim for penalties was subject to avoidance by the trustee and that because the trustee had not attempted to avoid this claim, debtors could do so under 11 U.S.C. 522(h). The trustee cross-claimed to avoid the liens and alleged their value should be recovered for the benefit of the bankruptcy estate.The bankruptcy court dismissed the adversary complaint. The trustee and the IRS agreed that the penalty portions of the liens were avoided under 11 U.S.C. 724(a). The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel and Ninth Circuit affirmed. Section 522(h) did not authorize the debtors to avoid the liens that secured the penalties claim to the extent of their $100,000 California law homestead exemption. Section 522(c)(2)(B), denies debtors the right to remove tax liens from their otherwise exempt property. Under 11 U.S.C. 551, a transfer that is avoided by the trustee under 724(a) is preserved for the benefit of the estate; this aspect of 551 is not overridden by 522(i)(2), which provides that property may be preserved for the benefit of the debtor to the extent of a homestead exemption. View "Hutchinson v. Internal Revenue Service" on Justia Law

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The Heitings’ Revocable Trust, administered by BMO, filed no tax returns; the Heitings reported its gains and losses on their returns. With respect to two stocks, BMO had no discretionary power to take any action, including any sale or purchase of the stock. Nonetheless, in 2015 BMO sold the restricted stock, incurring a taxable gain of $5,643,067.50. The Heitings included that gain on their 2015 personal tax return. BMO subsequently realized that the sale was prohibited, and in 2016, purchased shares of the restricted stock with the proceeds from the earlier transaction.The Heitlings sought to invoke the claim of right doctrine. 26 U.S.C. 1341 to claim a deduction on their 2016 return: A taxpayer must report income in the year in which it was received, even if the taxpayer could later be required to return the income but would then be entitled to a deduction in the repayment year; alternatively, taxpayers may recompute their taxes for the year of receipt of the income. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the Heitings’ suit. Under section 1341(a)(2), the Heitings had to show that the repayment occurred because “it was established after the close of such prior taxable year" that the taxpayer "did not have an unrestricted right to such item.” It was not established that the Trust did not have an unrestricted right to the income item. The Heitlings never challenged the purchase or sale of the restricted stock. View "Heiting v. United States" on Justia Law

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Berkovich filed California state tax returns as required for 2003-2005. In 2008, the IRS assessed about $145,000 of additional federal income taxes against Berkovich for those years. He did not notify the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) of the increased federal assessments as required. (Cal. Rev. & Tax Code 18622(a)). The FTB learned of the federal assessments from the IRS. It assessed Berkovich additional state income taxes, approximately $45,000 plus penalties and interest. Berkovich did not challenge the assessments nor pay the additional state taxes. In 2012, Berkovich filed a chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. After the bankruptcy discharge, the FTB filed a complaint, alleging that the state tax debts were nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(1)(B)(i) because Berkovich failed to report the increased federal tax assessments to the FTB and failed to challenge the FTB’s notices of proposed tax assessment. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel held that Berkovich’s tax debt was not discharged.The Ninth Circuit affirmed. Berkovich’s tax debt was not discharged in bankruptcy because the debt derived from a “report or notice” “equivalent” to a tax return. Section 523(a)(1)(B) provides that, if a taxpayer fails to file a required “return, or equivalent report or notice,” the relevant tax debt is not discharged. California law requires a taxpayer to “report” to the FTB if the IRS changes the taxpayer’s federal income tax liability. View "Berkovich v. California Franchise Tax Board" on Justia Law

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The Plaintiff States filed suit alleging that the $10,000 cap on the federal income tax deduction for money paid in state and local taxes (SALT), enacted as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, violates the United States Constitution.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and denial of the States' cross-motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that the States had standing and that their claims were not barred by the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA). However, the court rejected the States' contention that the SALT deduction is constitutionally required by the text of Article I, Section 8 and the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution, and thus the SALT deduction cap effectively eliminates a constitutionally mandated deduction for taxpayers. Rather, the court concluded that the Constitution itself does not limit Congress's authority to impose a cap. In this case, the States' arguments mimic those that the Supreme Court rejected in South Carolina v. Baker, 485 U.S. 505, 515–27 9 (1988). In Baker, the Court held that Congress had the power to tax interest earned on state-issued bonds even though it had not previously done so. The court also concluded that the SALT deduction cap is not coercive in violation of the Tenth Amendment or the principle of equal sovereignty. View "New York v. Yellen" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the government in this tax refund action arising under the Internal Revenue Code. Taxpayers overpaid their reported 2010 tax liabilities by an amount sufficient to cover any later-determined deficiency for the 2010 tax year, and then elected on their 2010 tax return to credit the overpayment forward to their estimated 2011 tax liabilities. The IRS subsequently completed an audit of taxpayers' 2010 tax return and determined that their interest award in a prior lawsuit should have been reported as ordinary income taxable at the ordinary income rate.The court concluded that the interest award is properly classified and taxable as ordinary income. The court explained that the award portion of the judgment one of the taxpayers received was "in lieu of" what she might have earned on the fair value of her shares for the 13-year period between the merger and final judgment in the prior litigation. Therefore, the court concluded that it qualifies as ordinary income under the origin-of-the-claim doctrine. However, in the absence of clear statutory authority, the court applied the established use-of-money principle and concluded that the IRS improperly assessed underpayment interest against taxpayers from April 16, 2012 to April 15, 2017. The court remanded for the district court to enter a judgment for taxpayers as to their claim for refund of the $603,335.27 underpayment interest amount. View "Goldring v. United States" on Justia Law