Justia Tax Law Opinion Summaries

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San Rafael voters approved by a two-thirds vote a Paramedic Services Special Tax, imposing an annual special tax up to a maximum of 14 cents per square foot on all nonresidential structures in the city to fund paramedic services. In 2015-2016, the city determined that the Assessor had been inadvertently omitted certain properties from the Paramedic Tax assessment. City officials rectified this oversight prospectively and sought to collect a portion of the Tax that had gone unpaid. One property owner that received notice of the levy was Valley Baptist, a nonprofit religious organization that operates a church on property within city boundaries. The city requested payment of $13,644.Valley Baptist filed suit, challenging the constitutionality of the Tax as applied to a place of worship. Valley Baptist argued that it is exempted from payment of all property taxes under article XIII, section 3(f) of the California Constitution, including the Paramedic Tax. Reversing the trial court, the court of appeal held that the religious exemption does not extend to non-ad valorem special property taxes like the Paramedic Tax. The constitutional articles added by Propositions 13 and 218 do not evince an intent by the electorate to extend the scope of article XIII exemptions to special property taxes. View "Valley Baptist Church v. City of San Rafael" on Justia Law

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After paying the taxes due under escape assessments, LA Live brought a tax refund action against the County seeking a refund of those taxes. LA Live claimed that the Assessor failed to comply with the procedural requirements of Revenue and Taxation Code section 531.8. The trial court entered judgment for the County, finding that the Assessor's failure to wait 10 days before enrolling the escape assessments did not render them void, and LA Live had failed to exhaust its administrative remedies before pursuing the present action.The Court of Appeal affirmed and concluded that the trial court correctly concluded that LA Live's claim is not reviewable on the merits because LA Live did not exhaust its administrative remedies. The court explained that, by statute, a taxpayer is required to file administrative requests for reassessment and refund before filing a refund action in court. Furthermore, the administrative exhaustion requirement is jurisdictional unless the assessment is a nullity as a matter of law. In this case, the assessment was not legally null: Even if the Assessor failed to follow the statutory procedure set out in section 531.8, that failure did not render the assessment a nullity because the real property at issue was not tax exempt, nonexistent, or outside the County's jurisdiction. View "LA Live Properties, LLC v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court struck in its entirety an amendment to the Hillsborough County Charter adopted in an initiative election that approved a transportation surtax and directives for allocating the tax proceeds, holding that the spending directives were unconstitutional.The charter amendment at issue enacted a one percent transportation sales surtax and included various provisions governing the use and distribution of the tax's proceeds. Here, the Supreme Court reviewed the circuit court's judgment validating the Hillsborough County Commission's authorization of the issuance of bonds to be funded by a portion of the proceeds of the surtax. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court to the extent that it upheld the validity of any portion of the amendment, holding that core provisions of the amendment were inconsistent with the surtax statute and because the invalid provisions and the remaining provisions of the amendment form an interlocking plan, the amendment was unconstitutional in its entirety. View "Emerson v. Hillsborough County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court's grant of summary judgment concluding that the taxable "sale price" of iPhones sold at discounted prices to customers who entered into wireless service contracts at Apple Inc.'s retail stores did not include payments made by the wireless service carriers to Apple in connection with the sales, holding that the amounts paid by the carriers to Apple constitute part of the taxable sale prices for the phones.In granting summary judgment for Apple and denied the summary judgment motion filed by the State Tax Assessor the superior court concluded that the carriers' payments to Apple were insufficiently linked to the phones' purchases to constitute reimbursement for the discounts. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the grant of summary judgment and remanded for entry of judgment in favor of the Assessor, holding that because Apple expected at the time of sale it would be reimbursed by the carriers for the price discounts granted to customers entering into wireless service contracts with the carriers, the amounts Apple paid to carriers constituted part of the taxable sale prices for the phones. View "Apple Inc. v. State Tax Assessor" on Justia Law

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This opinion supersedes the opinion issued on December 15, 2020, as rehearing by panel was granted on February 10, 2021.The Eighth Circuit reversed the tax court's grant of taxpayer's motion for summary judgment in an action where the Commissioner had determined that because taxpayer was not a bona fide resident of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), she and her husband owed federal income tax for the 2003 and 2004 tax years. It is undisputed that taxpayers did not intend to file tax returns with the IRS, but only with the USVI's Bureau of Internal Revenue (VIBIR).The court rejected claims that taxpayer and her husband met the USVI nonresident filing requirements, beginning the three-year statute of limitations in 26 U.S.C. 6501(a) and barring the IRS's claims. In this case, the VBIR's action of sending some of their tax documents to the IRS or their action of filing the returns with the Virgin Islands alone do not meet the filing requirements. Therefore, the court reversed the tax court's finding that taxpayer and her husband could assert the statute of limitations as a defense. View "Coffey v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Oglala Lakota County Commission denying Wings as Eagles Ministries, Inc.'s petition seeking an abatement of its property taxes for 2014 and 2015, holding that the circuit court did not err.Wings applied for property tax exempt status for the 2014 and 2015 tax years. The applications were denied and became final determinations of the property's exempt status for those years. Wings then filed its abatement petition, which the Commission denied. The circuit court affirmed, concluding that Wings was unable to meet the threshold eligibility element for an abatement because the final determinations denying exempt status conclusively established that Wings was not exempt for the 2014 and 2015 tax years. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err when it concluded that Wings did not qualify for an abatement under S.D. Codified Laws 10-18-1(3); and (2) Wings' estoppel argument was unreviewable on appeal. View "Wings As Eagles Ministries, Inc. v. Oglala Lakota County" on Justia Law

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Property owners (taxpayers) appealed ad valorem tax assessments made during 2012-2015 to the Tulsa County District Court after their appeals to the Tulsa County Board of Equalization were denied. Taxpayers were successful in the District Court appeal by showing one parcel of property was exempt and a second parcel partially exempt from ad valorem taxation. The District Court determined the amounts of the tax refund and stated the Tulsa County Treasurer "pay the Petitioners interest on such amounts as allowed by law." The Tulsa County Assessor appealed, but the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the District Court's judgment. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held the general postjudgment statute, 12 O.S. section 727.1, did not apply to taxpayers' ad valorem tax protest appeal, and the procedure for interest on taxpayers' protested tax payments was provided by the ad valorem statute, 68 O.S. section 2884. View "In the Matter of the Assessments for Tax Year 2012" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellee Warehouse Market subleased a commercial building from defendant Pinnacle Management, Inc. The building was on federally restricted Indian land. Subsequently, defendant-appellant, Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Office of Tax Commission (Tribe) both sought to collect sales tax from Warehouse Market. Warehouse Market filed an interpleader action in an attempt to have the court determine which entity to pay. However, the trial court dismissed the Tribe because it had no jurisdiction over it because of the Tribe's sovereign immunity. The trial court then determined that the OTC could not be entitled to the sales tax unless and until the dispute between the OTC and the Tribe was resolved in another forum or tribunal. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held that because the substance of Warehouse Market's action/request for relief was a tax protest, exhaustion of administrative remedies was a jurisdictional prerequisite to seeking relief in the trial court. View "Warehouse Market v. Oklahoma ex rel. Ok. Tax Comm." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Indiana Land Trust's motion to set aside a tax deed, holding that the LaPorte County Auditor gave adequate notice reasonably calculated to inform Indiana Land Trust Company of the impeding tax sale of the property.Taxes went unpaid on a vacant property from 2009 to 2015. The county auditor sent notice of an impending tax sale via certified letter and first-class mail to the notice listed on the deed for the property. The certified letter came back as undeliverable, and the first-class mail was not returned. Notice was eventually published in the local newspaper. The property sold, and a tax deed was issued to the purchaser. When the original owner learned of the sale it moved to set aside the tax deed due to insufficient notice. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the county auditor provided adequate notice and was not required to search its own internal records for a better tax sale notice address; and (2) the trial court properly denied Indiana Land Trust's motion to set aside the tax deed. View "Indiana Land Trust Co. v. XL Investment Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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After the passage of Proposition 218, Sacramento voters approved a requirement that city enterprises providing water, sewer, storm drainage, and solid waste services pay a total tax of 11% of their gross revenues from user fees and charges. Nineteen years later, plaintiff-respondent Russell Wyatt brought a petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory relief against the City challenging its fees and charges for utility services under article XIII D, section 6, subdivision (b) of the California Constitution (added by Prop. 218, as approved by voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996)). It was undisputed that the City set these fees and charges at rates sufficient to fund the payment of the tax to its general fund. The trial court issued a writ of mandate and judgment in Wyatt’s favor. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment and directed the trial court to vacate its writ of mandate. By approving the tax in 1998, Sacramento voters increased the cost of providing utility services, rendering those costs recoverable as part of their utility rates and the subsequent transfer of funds permissible under article XIII D. View "Wyatt v. City of Sacramento" on Justia Law