Justia Tax Law Opinion Summaries

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a securities fraud action because it was barred by the act of state doctrine. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants knowingly failed to disclose legal deficiencies under Mexican tax law in the 2012 APA Ruling and sold shares knowing these legal deficiencies existed. The panel held that plaintiffs' claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 would require a United States court to pass judgment on the validity of a 2012 ruling by Mexico's tax authority. In this case, the mandatory elements of applying the act of state doctrine were satisfied and the policies underlying the doctrine weighed in favor of applying it to bar plaintiffs' claims. Agreeing with its sister circuits, the panel held that the district court was not required to consider the Sabbatino factors. The panel declined to reconsider whether a tax ruling by the Mexican government, that remains valid in Mexico, complied with Mexico's tax laws. View "Royal Wulff Ventures LLC v. Primero Mining Corp." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of Pfizer's claim against the United States for overpayment interest on its delayed tax refund. The court held that jurisdiction of Pfizer's claim for overpayment lies exclusively with the United States Court of Federal Claims. The court explained that overpayment interest is a straightforward claim against the federal government that was covered by the Tucker Act. Accordingly, the court transferred the case to the Court of Federal Claims. View "Pfizer Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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In March 2009 Truitt joined the Moorish Science Temple of America, which calls itself a sovereign “ecclesiastical government” and teaches that neither the states nor the federal government have authority over its members. Members purport to hold something akin to diplomatic immunity. In late 2009, Truitt filed seven nearly identical tax returns, each falsely claiming that she was entitled to a $300,000 refund. The IRS identified six returns as fraudulent, but for unknown reasons, approved one and sent her a check for the full amount. Within weeks the IRS demanded that she return the funds. She did not respond but spent the money on jewelry, a condominium, tickets to sporting events, and an investment. Truitt was convicted of making false claims against the United States, 18 U.S.C. 287 and theft of government funds, 18 U.S.C. 641. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Truitt’s challenge the exclusion of her expert witness, psychologist Dr. Fogel, who proposed to testify that Truitt was a member of a “charismatic group”—a cult-like organization that indoctrinates its members. Truitt argued that she lacked the requisite mens rea for the crimes. The judge properly excluded the testimony under “Daubert” and Federal Rules of Evidence 702 and 704(b), reasonably concluding that Fogel lacked the relevant expertise and his methods were not reliable. View "United States v. Truitt" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the board of assessors of Boston, holding that taxed personal property owned by and assessed to Veolia Energy Boston, Inc. consisting principally of pipes that Veolia used to produce, store, and distribute steam is exempt from local taxation and that the great integral machine doctrine remains an appropriate means by which to determine whether certain property constitutes machinery. At issue was whether the pipes were exempt from local taxation in accordance with Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 59, 5, clause 16 (3), which provides that property owned by a manufacturing corporation "other than...pipes" is exempt from local taxation. The board found that Veolia's networks of pipes and appurtenant equipment operate in concert as a single, integrated machine and, as a result, concluded that the pipes constituted machinery exempt from local taxation in accordance with clause 16 (3). The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the board's reasoning in all material aspects was sound and that there was no basis for disturbing the board's decision. View "Veolia Energy Boston, Inc. v. Board of Assessors of Boston" on Justia Law

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In considering whether online travel companies (OTCs) are subject to municipal privilege taxes under Model City Tax Code (the Code) 444 and 447 the Supreme Court held that the OTCs in this case were subject to taxation under section 444 but not under section 447. In 2013, the City of Phoenix and other cities (the Cities) issued privilege tax assessments against the OTCs based on the Cities' belief that the OTCs owed unpaid privilege taxes under sections 444 and 447 for engaging in the business of operating hotels or, alternatively, for acting as brokers for hotels. The tax court concluded that the OTCs were liable for the taxes. The court of appeals concluded that the OTCS were subject to taxation under section 444 but not under section 447 and that the Cities could assess the taxes, penalties, and interest under section 444 retroactively. The Supreme Court vacated in part the court of appeals' decision, holding (1) the OTCs are subject to taxation under section 444 because they are brokers engaging in the business of operating a hotel; and (2) the OTCs are not subject to taxation under section 447 because they are not hotels. View "City of Phoenix v. Orbitz Worldwide Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit held that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act does not preempt the imposition of statewide tax on the gross receipts of a nonmember contractor for services performed in renovating and expanding the Tribe's gaming casino located on the Reservation. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Tribe and held that the Tribe has failed to show that the tax has more than a de minimis financial impact on federal and tribal interests. Furthermore, the State's legitimate interests in raising revenues for essential government programs that benefit the nonmember contractor-taxpayer in this case, as well as its interest in being able to apply its generally applicable contractor excise tax throughout the State, were sufficient to justify imposing the excise tax on the construction services performed on the Casino's realty. Finally, the court granted the State's motion to dismiss the State Treasurer and remanded for further proceedings. View "Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe v. Haeder" on Justia Law

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The IRS searched Ellis’s apartment and found personal identifying information for more than 400 people on printouts from the Alabama Department of Corrections’ database and in a TurboTax database on laptops seized from Ellis’s bedroom. Her computers had been used to file hundreds of electronic tax returns in 2008-2012. Ellis was charged with devising a scheme to submit fraudulent tax returns in “2012,” including eight counts of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, and eight counts of aggravated identity theft, 18 U.S.C. 1028A(a)(1), (c)(5) and 18 U.S.C. 2. After the government admitted that some of Agent Ward’s grand jury statements had been wrong, Ellis unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the indictment. The court found that the “inaccurate statements did not have a substantial influence" given "overwhelming other evidence he presented.” Agent Ward testified that the intended loss from Ellis’s scheme was approximately $700,000, based on the total requested refunds, not the actual refunds. The court agreed and applied a 12-step ioffense level increase (U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(1)(H)), with a resulting Guidelines range for the wire fraud counts of 51-71 months. The court imposed a 48-month sentence for wire fraud and a consecutive, mandatory, 24-month sentence for aggravated identity theft and ordered forfeiture of $11,670, the total of the eight tax returns for which Ellis was convicted. The court imposed the government’s requested $352,183.20, in restitution to governmental entities. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion to dismiss, the calculation of the forfeiture, and the restitution order, rejecting arguments that the government had not presented evidence that all of the refunds used to calculate restitution were part of the same scheme and that some of that amount was tied to conduct that occurred outside of the limitations period. View "United States v. Ellis" on Justia Law

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SSI Food Services Inc. (SSI) appealed the district court’s decision rejecting the Board of Tax Appeal’s (BTA) 2016 assessed value of SSI’s food processing facility in favor of the Canyon County Assessor’s (Canyon County) significantly higher valuation. On appeal, SSI argued the district court erred when it modified the BTA’s valuation because: (1) Canyon County did not meet its burden of proving that the BTA’s valuation was erroneous; (2) the modified valuation was not supported by substantial and competent evidence; and (3) the conclusions of law contained in the district court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law are inadequate. SSI also appealed the district court’s decision to allow Canyon County’s expert to testify on rebuttal. Canyon County cross-appealed the district court’s decision that SSI was not obligated to pay penalties and interest on the unpaid amount of property taxes. Finding no reversible error or abuse of discretion, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Stender v. SSI Food Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court concluding that the Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS) had issued correct decisions regarding Somerset County's two requests for public records submitted pursuant to Maine's Freedom of Access Act (FOAA), Me. Rev. Stat. 1, 400-414, holding that the court properly concluded that one set of records was subject to disclosure and the other set was not subject to disclosure. In December 2016 and October 2017 the County submitted its requests seeking records concerning valuation information that Blue Sky West, LLC had submitted to Maine Revenue Services as part of the State's assessment of taxes on property that Blue Sky owned in the County. DAFS determined that the records responsive to the County's 2016 request were public records subject to disclosure but that the records responsive to the 2017 request were confidential by statute and thus were not public records. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court did not err by concluding that the 2016 records were subject to inspection and copying by the public but that the 2017 records comprised clearly labeled proprietary information protected from disclosure pursuant to FOAA. View "Blue Sky West, LLC v. Maine Revenue Services" on Justia Law

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Amazon filed a petition in the tax court challenging the IRS's valuation of a buy-in payment for pre-existing intangibles related to the company's contribution to a cost sharing arrangement, whereby Amazon and a holding company for the European subsidiaries would be treated as co-owners of the intangibles. The tax court ruled primarily with Amazon and the Commissioner appealed. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the tax court's decision and held that the definition of "intangible" in the applicable transfer pricing regulations did not include residual-business assets. Although the language of the definition is ambiguous, the panel held that the drafting history of the regulations shows that "intangible" was understood to be limited to independently transferable assets. View "Amazon.com v. Commissioner" on Justia Law