Justia Tax Law Opinion Summaries

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The DC Circuit denied petitions for review challenging FERC's orders concerning SFPP's tariffs. SFPP challenges FERC's decisions to deny SFPP an income tax allowance, to decline to reopen the record on that issue, and to deny SFPP's retroactive adjustment to its index rates. Shippers challenge FERC's disposition of SFPP's accumulated deferred income taxes (ADIT) and its temporal allocation of litigation costs. The court held that FERC's denial of an income tax allowance to SFPP was both consistent with the court's precedent and well-reasoned, and that FERC did not abuse its discretion or act arbitrarily in declining to reopen the record on that issue. Furthermore, FERC reasonably rejected retroactive adjustment to SFPP's index rates. The court also held that FERC correctly found that the rule against retroactive ratemaking prohibited it from refunding or continuing to exclude from rate base SFPP's ADIT balance, and that FERC reasonably allocated litigation costs. View "SFPP, LP v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The New Jersey Business Employment Incentive Program provides cash grants for companies willing to relocate or expand to New Jersey. A company receiving the grant must maintain a minimum number of employees and remain at the new location for a certain time period but there are no restrictions on how the company can use the grant, which is calculated as a percentage of state income taxes withheld from the wages of the company’s employees at the new location. In 2011, Garban’s offices in the World Trade Center were destroyed, and First Brokers’ nearby offices were rendered uninhabitable. Both companies, subsidiaries of BrokerTec, entered into agreements for 10-year Incentive Program grants. From about 2004-2013, the state paid BrokerTec about $170 million, which was used to purchase stock to expand into other trading markets. In 2010-2013, the companies' consolidated tax returns excluded $56 million in grant payments as non-taxable, non-shareholder contributions to capital under 26 U.S.C. 118. The IRS issued a deficiency notice. The Tax Court held that the grants were capital contributions. The Third Circuit reversed. Because the state did not restrict how BrokerTec could use the cash and because the grants were calculated based on the amount of income tax revenue that the new jobs would generate—the grants were taxable income, not contributions to capital. View "Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Brokertec Holdings Inc" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Boechler's petition for review of a notice of determination from the Commissioner of the IRS based on lack of jurisdiction. Under 26 U.S.C. 6330(d)(1), a party has 30 days to file a petition for review. In this case, Boechler filed one day after the filing deadline had passed. The court held that the statutory text of section 6330(d)(1) is a rare instance where Congress clearly expressed its intent to make the filing deadline jurisdictional. The court also held that Boechler failed to demonstrate that the filing deadline is arbitrary and irrational. Rather, given the rational reasons for the calculation method, and Boechler's inability to identify any actual discrimination or discriminatory intent, the court held that the 30-day filing deadline from the date of determination does not violate the Fifth Amendment. Therefore, Boechler's petition was untimely and thus properly dismissed. View "Boechler, P.C. v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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Rafaeli, LLC, and Andre Ohanessian brought an action against Oakland County, Michigan, and its treasurer, Andrew Meisner, alleging due-process and equal-protection violations as well as an unconstitutional taking of their properties. Rafaeli owed $8.41 in unpaid property taxes from 2011, which grew to $285.81 after interest, penalties, and fees. Defendants foreclosed on Rafaeli’s property for the delinquency, sold the property at public auction for $24,500, and retained all the sale proceeds in excess of the taxes, interest, penalties, and fees. Ohanessian owed approximately $6,000 in unpaid taxes, interest, penalties, and fees from 2011. Like Rafaeli’s property, defendants foreclosed on Ohanessian’s property for the delinquency, sold his property at auction for $82,000, and retained all the proceeds in excess of Ohanessian’s tax debt. Plaintiffs specifically alleged that defendants, by selling plaintiffs’ real properties in satisfaction of their tax debts and retaining the surplus proceeds from the tax-foreclosure sale of their properties, had taken their properties without just compensation in violation of the Takings Clauses of the federal and Michigan Constitutions. The circuit court granted summary disposition to defendants, finding that defendants did not “take” plaintiffs’ properties because plaintiffs forfeited all interests they held in their properties when they failed to pay the taxes due on the properties. The court determined that property properly forfeited under the General Property Tax Act (GPTA), MCL 211.1 et seq., and in accordance with due process is not a “taking” barred by either the United States or Michigan Constitution. In an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed, finding that defendants’ retention of those surplus proceeds was an unconstitutional taking without just compensation under Article 10, section 2 of the Michigan 1963 Constitution. View "Rafaeli, LLC v. Oakland County" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the tax court's determination that petitioners held Wrentham House, a historic mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, as a capital asset eligible for capital loss deduction rather than as real property used in a taxpayer's trade or business eligible for ordinary loss deduction. The court held that the tax court did not err in determining that (i) petitioners held Wrentham House as a capital asset at the time of its sale and were therefore eligible upon its sale to deduct the loss only as a capital loss, and that (ii) petitioners were liable for late-filing additions to tax and accuracy-related penalties. View "Keefe v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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The San Mateo County Assessment Appeals Board invalidated escape assessments imposed by the County Assessor based on the value of machinery and equipment (M&E) at Genentech’s San Mateo County facility. The fair market value of the M&E on which property tax is imposed is determined with reference to either the cost of equipment purchased in a finished state or, if the equipment is not purchased in a finished state, costs incurred to bring the equipment to a finished state. The Board determined that Genentech purchased all of the M&E in a finished state and that the assembly of the equipment into a production line did not render the equipment “self-constructed property” justifying the inclusion of the additional costs in determining fair market value. The trial court determined that none of the equipment was in a finished state until put to use in a functioning production line and that the additional costs capitalized for accounting purposes add to the value of the property for purposes of the property tax. The court of appeal reversed. The trial court adopted a standard for determining when equipment is in a finished state for which there is no justification, and erroneously rejected Board findings that are supported by substantial evidence. Fair market value and net book value are separate concepts with separate purposes; the assessor may not rely on Genentech’s capitalization of expenses for accounting purposes to establish that those expenses increase the value of the equipment and are subject to assessment. View "Church v. San Mateo County Assessment Appeals Board" on Justia Law

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Blake, who has an MBA, engaged in a fraudulent tax scheme but claims unnamed users in internet chat rooms persuaded him to pursue his hidden federal “legacy trusts.” Blake filed eight different individual tax returns using fraudulent information, at one point faking his own death. He was convicted of presenting a false or fictitious claim to a U.S. agency, 18 U.S.C. 287, and theft of government money, 18 U.S.C. 641. Blake’s base offense level was six; 16 levels were added for an intended loss in excess of $1.5 million (U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(1)(I)). Two more levels were added for obstruction of justice (3C1.1). Blake’s guidelines range was 51–63 months' imprisonment. Blake objected to including in the loss calculation $900,000 in claimed refunds in the 2008–2010 filings, arguing he was not responsible for those filings. He also claimed $300,000 should be the intended loss amount because he intended to obtain only his “legacy trust” funds which he believed were about that amount. Under Blake’s calculations, his guidelines range was 33–41 months. The district court rejected his arguments. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his sentence of 36 months in prison plus restitution. The district court did not commit reversible error. Blake's ineffective assistance of counsel claim was dismissed without prejudice as “better raised on collateral review.” View "United States v. Blake" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the appellate tax board (board) upholding the Commissioner of Revenue's assessment of an additional Massachusetts estate tax based on the value of a qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust in computing a decedent's Massachusetts estate tax return, holding that there was not a constitutional or a statutory barrier to the assessment. Robert Chuckrow created a QTIP trust in New York. Adelaid Chuckrow (decedent) was the lifetime income beneficiary of the QTIP trust and deed domiciled in Massachusetts. The decedent's estate (estate) did not include the value of the QTIP trust assets in computing her Massachusetts estate tax return. After an audit, the Commission assessed an additional Massachusetts estate tax of almost $2 million based on the value of the QTIP assets. The board upheld the assessment. At issue before the Supreme Judicial Court was whether the intangible assets in the QTIP trust were includable in the gross estate of the decedent for purposes of calculating the Massachusetts estate tax under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 65C, 2A(a). The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the QTIP assets were includable in the estate for purposes of the Massachusetts estate tax. View "Shaffer v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals that it lacked jurisdiction to review the failure by the Board of Tax Appeals (BOTA) to issue a full and complete opinion in an ad valorem tax dispute after the opinion was requested, holding that the court erred when it concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to review the allegation that BOTA illegally failed timely to issue a full and complete opinion. Taxpayers appealed Johnson County's ad valorem tax valuations for the 2016 tax year on seven commercial properties. The BOTA entered a written summary decision ordering lower values for each property. Five weeks later, the County asked BOTA to issue the full and complete opinion. BOTA failed to do so. The County petitioned the court of appeals for judicial review. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded, holding that the court of appeals (1) had jurisdiction over the issue of whether BOTA acted properly in failing timely to issue a full and complete opinion; and (2) correctly dismissed the appeal as it pertained to the County's effort to obtain judicial review of the summary decision. View "In re Equalization Appeals of Target Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the tax court increasing the assessed unit value of a pipeline system for tax years 2015 and 2016, holding that the tax court did not err in its calculations for the cost indicator of value but erred in assigning equal weight to the cost and income indicators of value. On appeal, the taxpayer (1) challenged the tax court's market value determination, asserting that the court erred in its treatment of construction work in progress and external obsolescence in the computation of the cost indicator of value; and (2) challenged the weight that the court assigned to the cost indicator of value, as opposed to the income indicator, in determining the unit value of the pipeline system. The Supreme Court held that the tax court (1) did not err in its calculations for the cost indicator of value; but (2) erred by concluding that it had no discretion to adjust the default weightings prescribed by Minnesota Rule 8100.0300, subpart 5 for the cost and income indicators of value. View "Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law