Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia

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At issue in this case was the meaning of the term “motor fuel taxes” as used in the Georgia Constitution, Article III, Sec. IX, Par. IV(b). A trucking industry association and three individual motor carriers challenged local sales and use taxes on motor fuels, the revenues of which were not used solely for public roads and bridges. They argued that these taxes fell within the meaning of “motor fuel taxes” under the Motor Fuel Provision and, therefore, the revenues from these taxes (or an amount equal to that revenue) had to be allocated to the maintenance and construction of public roads and bridges. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ complaint because the history and context of the Motor Fuel Provision revealed that “motor fuel taxes” were limited to per-gallon taxes on distributors of motor fuel, and did not include sales and use taxes imposed on retail sales of motor fuels. View "Georgia Motor Trucking Assn. v. Georgia Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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Appellee M7VEN Supportive Housing and Development Group (“M7”) failed to pay taxes on two properties in Carroll County, and, consequently, the Tax Commissioner conducted a tax sale. The properties were purchased by Appellant DLT List, LLC (“DLT”), for a total of $110,000, and the tax sale resulted in excess funds of approximately $105,000. The Commissioner notified M7, DLT, and others of excess funds, and, M7 filed a certificate of authorization seeking to receive the excess funds. Though there were no other claims made on the funds, the Commissioner did not release the funds. Appellee Design Acquisition, LLC, as a lienholder against M7, redeemed the properties from DLT, and DLT issued quitclaim deeds of redemption to M7. Design Acquisition filed a declaratory judgment action claiming entitlement to the excess funds, and the Commissioner filed an equitable interpleader action for the purpose of distributing the excess funds. The two actions were consolidated. The trial court determined that, because M7 was the only entity to have made a claim for the excess funds or to have had a recorded interest in the properties at the time of the tax sale, the Commissioner should have timely released the excess funds to M7. DLT and Design Acquisition appealed, arguing that Design Acquisition had first priority to the excess funds as the redeeming creditor. The Court of Appeals overruled the controlling case law in this matter, applied OCGA 48-4-5 (a) to the question of excess funds and determined that Design Acquisition had no claim to the excess funds because it was not a lienholder at the time of the tax sale. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether a redeeming creditor after a tax sale has a first priority claim on excess tax-sale funds. Though the Court disagreed with the rationale employed by the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court nevertheless affirmed its decision. View "DLT List, LLC v. M7VEN Supportive Housing & Development Group" on Justia Law

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This was the third appeal of this case arising from the efforts of appellee Southern LNG, Inc. (“Southern”) to compel State Revenue Commissioner Lynnette Riley (“the Commissioner”) to recognize Southern as a “public utility” under OCGA 48-5-511 and to accept Southern’s ad valorem property tax returns. On remand, the trial court granted summary judgment to the Commissioner on a mandamus claim, holding that Southern had an adequate alternative remedy. In a prior appeal, the Supreme Court laid out for the parties in considerable detail the potential legal and procedural issues bearing on the question of whether the Commissioner could become a party or be bound by a judgment rendered in the tax appeals. On remand, Southern and the Commissioner filed renewed cross-motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Southern, holding that it had no “equally convenient, complete and beneficial” remedy other than mandamus, and denied the Commissioner’s motion for summary judgment, and directed the Commissioner “to accept [Southern’s] ad valorem property tax returns pursuant to OCGA 48-5-511(a) instanter.” The Commissioner appealed, and the Supreme Court this time reversed, finding Southern did not show the Commissioner, in refusing to accept Southern’s ad valorem tax returns, violated a “clear legal duty,” that she failed to act, or that her actions were arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable, amounting to a gross abuse of discretion, so as to entitle Southern to a writ of mandamus. View "Riley v. Southern LNG, Inc." on Justia Law

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The owners of residential properties in Lowndes County appealed a final superior court order that declared OCGA 48-5-2(3) (B.1), which excluded low-income housing income tax credits from consideration for the purpose of assessing ad valorem tax, was unconstitutional for violating the taxation uniformity provision of the Georgia Constitution. The properties at issue were eligible to receive federal and state low-income housing income tax credits. In exchange for receiving a ten-year award of tax credits, the property owners agreed to lease their rental units to eligible low-income tenants at below-market rents set by the state Department of Community Affairs (GDCA) for thirty years or more. During the credit period, the owner may not sell, transfer, or exchange the property without first requesting GDCA’s approval of the proposed sale, transfer, or exchange. After being awarded state and federal income tax credits by the GDCA, the property owners in this case “sold” the tax credits to investors in that they allowed investors to purchase limited partnership interests. The tax credits would “flow through” the partnerships to the limited partners, who would then use the tax credits to reduce their individual income tax liabilities. The Lowdnes County Board of Tax Assessors filed for a declaration as to the constitutionality of OCGA 48-5-2 (3) (B.1), which precluded the Assessors from considering the tax credits in determining the fair market value of the real property at issue. After review of the trial court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed: "inasmuch as OCGA 48-5-2 (3) (B.1) exempts these income tax credits from consideration in determining the fair market value of the properties at issue, the statute grants preferential treatment for ad valorem taxation purposes and creates a subclass of tangible property other than as permitted by the State Constitution." View "Heron Lake II Apartments, L.P. v. Lowndes Cty Bd. of Tax Assessors" on Justia Law