Justia Tax Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Supreme Court
Elk Hills Power, LLC v. Bd. of Equalization
In assessing the value of electric power plants for purposes of property taxation, assessors may not include the value of intangible assets and rights in the value of taxable property. An electric company purchased "emission reduction credits" (ERCs), which the company had to purchase to obtain authorization to construct an electric power plant and to operate it at certain air-pollutant emission levels. These ERCs constituted intangible rights for property taxation purposes. In assessing the value of the power plant using the replacement cost method, the State Board of Equalization (Board) estimated the cost of replacing the ERCs. In also using an income approach in assessing the plant, the Board failed to attribute a portion or the plant's income stream to the ERCs and to deduct that value from the plant's projected income stream prior to taxation. In analyzing the Board's valuation of the power plant, the Supreme Court held (1) the Board improperly taxed the power company's ERCs when it added their replacement cost to the power plant's taxable value; and (2) the Board was not required to deduct a value attributable to the ERCs under an income approach. Remanded. View "Elk Hills Power, LLC v. Bd. of Equalization" on Justia Law
McWilliams v. City of Long Beach
This dispute arose out of a class action lawsuit filed by Plaintiff, a resident of Defendant City, challenging the City's telephone users tax (TUT) and seeking refund of the taxes paid. The trial court ruled that class claims for a refund were barred under Woosley v. State and dismissed the case. The court of appeal reversed in part, holding that Plaintiff could file a class claim for a TUT refund under the recently decided Ardon v. City of Los Angeles. In Ardon, the Supreme Court held that the Government Claims Act (Act) permits a class action claim by taxpayers against a local government entity for the refund of an unlawful tax in the absence of a specific tax refund procedure set forth in an applicable governing claims statute. The City appealed, asserting that its municipal code contained an "applicable governing claims statute" barring class action claims for a tax refund. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a local ordinance is not a "statute" within the meaning of the Act. View "McWilliams v. City of Long Beach" on Justia Law
City of Alhambra v. County of Los Angeles
This case involved a dispute between Los Angeles County (County) and forty-seven cities (Cities) within County regarding how County calculated and imposed property tax administration fees on Cities for their share of County's costs in administering the property tax system. Cities petitioned the trial court for a writ of administrative mandate ordering County and its auditor-controller to reimburse Cities for the amount disputed in fiscal year 2006-2007. Following a trial, the referee ruled that County's method of calculating the disputed fee was consistent with legislative intent and did not violate Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code 97.75. The court of appeal reversed, relying almost exclusively on the plain meaning of section 97.75 to conclude that County's method of calculation was unlawful. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that County's method of calculating property tax administration fees violated the statutory scheme. View "City of Alhambra v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law
Dicon Fiberoptics v. Franchise Tax Bd.
The Enterprise Zone Act, Gov. Code, 7070 et seq., was enacted "to stimulate business and industrial growth" in "areas within the state that are economically depressed due to a lack of a private sector." Among the incentives available to businesses that operated within an enterprise zone was a hiring tax credit in the amount of a percentage of the wages paid to a "qualified employee." Rev. & Tax. Code, 23622.7, subd. (a). The Franchise Tax Board conducted an audit and refused to accept some of the certifications that Dicon claimed for a hiring tax credit. The Board found that the documents Dicon produced to establish that workers were "qualified employees" were insufficient and denied the requested tax credit in part. The court reversed the appellate court's holding that a certification issued by a governmental agency for purposes of the hiring tax credit under section 23622.7 constituted "prima facie proof a worker is a 'qualified employee,'" which shifted to the Board the "burden of demonstrating an employee is not a qualified worker for which no voucher should have issued." In all other respects, the Board did not challenge the appellate court's judgment and the judgment was affirmed. View "Dicon Fiberoptics v. Franchise Tax Bd." on Justia Law
Cal. Redevelopment Assoc., et al. v. Matosantos, et al.
The Association sought extraordinary writ relief from the court, arguing that two measures intended to stabilize school funding by reducing or eliminating the diversion of property tax revenues from school districts to the state's community redevelopment agencies, was unconstitutional. At issue was whether the state Constitution (1) redevelopment agencies, once created and engaged in redevelopment plans, have a protected right to exist that immunized them from statutory dissolution by the Legislature; and (2) redevelopment agencies and their sponsoring communities have a protected right not to make payments to various funds benefiting schools and special districts as a condition of continued operation. Answering the first question "no" and the second "yes," the court largely upheld Assembly Bill 1X 26 and invalidated Assembly Bill 1X27. The court held that Assembly Bill 1X 26, the dissolution measure, was a proper exercise of the legislative power vested in the Legislature by the state Constitution. The court held that Assembly Bill 1X 27, the measure conditioning further redevelopment agency operations on additional payments by an agency's community sponsors to state funds benefits schools and special districts, was invalid.
Ardon v. City of Los Angeles
Plaintiff, a resident of Los Angeles, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of himself and similarly situated individuals challenging the city's telephone users tax (TUT) and seeking refund of funds collected under the TUT over the previous two years. At issue was whether the Government Code section 910 allowed taxpayers to file a class action claim against a municipal government entity for the refund of local taxes. The court held that neither Woosley v. State of California, which concerned the interpretation of statutes other than section 910, nor article XIII, section 32 of the California Constitution, applied to the court's determination of whether section 910 permitted class claims that sought the refund of local taxes. Therefore, the court held that the reasoning in City of San Jose v. Superior Court, which permitted a class claim against a municipal government in the context of an action for nuisance under section 910, also permitted taxpayers to file a class claim seeking the refund of local taxes under the same statute. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
Franchise Tax Board v. The Superior Court of the City and County of San Francisco
Real party in interest, as personal representative of his son's estate, filed a complaint in 2006 seeking a refund of state personal income taxes for the years 2000 and 2001, alleging that the estate had paid over $15 million as part of a tax amnesty program, reserving the right to seek a refund, and demanding a jury trial. At issue was whether a taxpayer had the right to a jury trial in an action for a refund of state income taxes. The court held that article I, section 16 of the California Constitution did not require a jury trial in a statutory action for a state income tax refund where the statutory cause of action for a tax refund was a purely legislative creation with no foundation in contract and where such statutory right of action occupied a different class from the common law form of action in which a jury trial was available.