Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the State Board of Property Tax Review granting Emera Maine’s request for a property tax abatement for tax year 2012 pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 36, 841(1). Emera Maine was in the business of transporting and distributing electric power over transmission lines. The Board found that Emera’s abatement applications concerned an issue of error or illegality in assessment amounting to double taxation. The superior court affirmed the decision of the Board. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the evidence supported the Board’s finding that Emera’s error in estimating a value for and reporting ownership of a transmission line that Emera did not own resulted in an “illegality, error or irregularity in assessment” rather than an “error in the valuation of property,” thus entitling Emera to an abatement pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 36, 841(1). View "Town of Eddington v. Emera Maine" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment entered in the Business and Consumer Docket awarding the State and ConnectME Authority $406,852 in unpaid fees pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 35-A, 9216, plus interests and costs. On appeal, all parties argued that the lower court erred by concluding that the section 9216 assessment was a valid business excise tax. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the Legislature properly characterized the section 9216 assessment as a fee and not a tax; and (2) while the lower court erred by concluding that the assessment was a valid business excise tax, the error was harmless. View "State v. Biddeford Internet Corp." on Justia Law

by
RIHC, a Maine nonprofit entity, owns Roque Island, 1,242 acres of land, with five houses and numerous outbuildings. Roque Island is a homestead that has been owned by the same family since the early 1800s. In 2010, Jonesport hired a certified private assessor for revaluation of all town properties. The assessor used state-approved assessment software. Its calculations include the character of the neighborhood so that values for island properties are calculated at a lower rate because they are not benefitted by certain services that mainland properties receive. Building values on islands are subject to an “economic obsolescence factor” of 200%, resulting in a greater assessed value than for a comparable mainland structures because of the additional cost of building on an island. Due to an oversight, the economic obsolescence factor originating with the 2010 revaluation was not fully applied to the Island structures until the 2014 tax year, when their total valuation increased by 52% from the previous year. RIHC sought an abatement of $1,305,150 from the 2014 building valuation assessment of $2,609,846, which would result in a property tax reduction of $20,000. That application was constructively denied. The Board of Appeals also denied RIHC’s application, concluding that RIHC’s buildings were being taxed consistently with buildings on islands in other towns. The lower court and the Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed; the record does not compel the conclusion that the rate differentiation is unjustly discriminatory. View "Roque Island Gardner Homestead Corp. v. Town of Jonesport" on Justia Law

by
Maine Revenue Services (MRS) assessed MCI Communications Services, Inc. (MCI) $184,873.69 for two types of surcharges - property tax recovery charges (PTRCs) and carrier cost recovery charges (CCRCs) - that MCI imposed upon its Maine customers. The Maine Board of Tax Appeals vacated the imposition of the tax based on its determination that the PTRCs and CCRCs were excluded or exempt from taxation because they were part of the sale of interstate or international telecommunications services. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the PTRCs and CCRCs collected by MCI before July 18, 2008 were excluded from taxation and that those charges collected from MCI from July 18, 2008 forward were exempt from taxation. View "State Tax Assessor v. MCI Communications Services, Inc." on Justia Law

by
BCN Telecom, Inc. was assessed a state service provider tax on certain flat charges that BCN imposed on some business customers’ lines from 2008 to 2011. The charges were designed both to reimburse BCN for presubscribed interexchange carrier charges that it paid to access local telephone infrastructure and to generate profits. The Sales and Use Tax Division of Maine Revenue Services affirmed the assessment. The Maine Board of Tax Appeals affirmed. On judicial review, the superior court granted summary judgment in favor of BCN, concluding that BCN’s charges were not part of the “sale price” of telecommunications service and that, even if they were, they were exempt from taxation under Me. Rev. Stat. 36, 2557(34) because they were charges for interstate telecommunications services. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment entered by the superior court, holding (1) the amounts received by BCN were subject to the service provider tax as part of the sale price for telecommunications services; and (2) BCN failed to provide prima facie proof that the tax exemption for interstate telecommunications services applied as a matter of law to these charges. View "BCN Telecom, Inc. v. State Tax Assessor" on Justia Law

by
As a result of a partial revaluation of parcels of land located within the Town of Scarborough, including land owned by Plaintiffs, the municipal assessment of the parcels of land increased. Plaintiffs sought abatements from the Town assessor and the Scarborough Board of Assessment Review without success. Plaintiffs appealed the Board’s decision, arguing that they bore an unequal share of the Town’s overall tax burden. The Business and Consumer Docket concluded that Plaintiffs did not have standing to seek remedial relief because Plaintiffs’ properties were not treated differently than the properties of other taxpayers. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) the Town’s method of assessing separate but abutting parcels held in common ownership resulted in unequal apportionment, and the Board erred in concluding that the unlawful practice did not result in discriminatory assessments of Plaintiffs’ properties; and (2) therefore, Plaintiffs had standing to pursue all of their challenges. Remanded. View "Petrin v. Town of Scarborough" on Justia Law

by
Chadwick-BaRoss Inc., a business located in the City of Westbrook, is a heavy-equipment dealer that sells equipment at retail and occasionally leases equipment to customers. After receiving a 2012 personal property tax declaration from Chadwick-BaRoss, the City asked the company to include additional equipment that was held in the physical possession of others pursuant to lease agreements. Chadwick-BaRoss responded that those items were available for immediate sale and were therefore exempt from the personal property tax. When the City and its tax assessor (together, Defendants) issued a supplemental tax bill, Chadwick-BaRoss filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that it did not owe personal property taxes on the equipment that it leased to others. The superior court entered summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that the equipment did not fall clearly within the personal property tax exemption for stock-in-trade. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the leased equipment was not held or kept in stock by Chadwick-BaRoss for sale or rental and was thus properly subject to taxation. View "Chadwick-BaRoss, Inc. v. City of Westbrook" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff applied for abatement of real property taxes that the Town of Lebanon assessed against her property for the tax years 2011 through 2013. The Town denied the application on the basis that the taxes had been paid. After a de novo hearing, the York County Commissioners ultimately denied Plaintiff’s application for abatement for tax years 2011 and 2012 and remanded the matter for further action with respect to tax year 2013. The superior court affirmed the decision of the Commissioners with respect to the 2011 and 2012 tax years. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that because Plaintiff failed to supply the Court with a complete and defined record of the evidence and arguments presented to the Commissioners, the Court could not review Plaintiff’s argument that the Commissioners were compelled to authorize an abatement. View "Penkul v. Town of Lebanon" on Justia Law