Justia Tax Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
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At issue in this appeal was the computation of the broadband credit limits that a taxpayer may use against its franchise-tax and income-tax liabilities. During the tax periods at issue, AT&T Mobility II, LLC, and BellSouth Telecommunications operated telecommunications enterprises and made significant investments in broadband technology developments throughout Mississippi, generating Broadband Investment Credits (Broadband Credits) under Mississippi Code Section 57-87-5. BellSouth Mobile Data, SBC Alloy Holdings, New BellSouth Cannular Holdings, New Cingular Wireless Services, SBC Telecom, and Centennial were all direct or indirect corporate owners of AT&T Mobility II. The taxpayers here each filed a separate franchise-tax return and were included as affiliated group members in the combined corporate income-tax return filed on behalf of the affiliated group. The Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) determined that the broadband credits the taxpayers had claimed had been improperly applied to an amount greater than the credit cap of 50 percent of the taxpayers’ tax liabilities according to Mississippi Code Section 57-87- 5(3) (Rev. 2014). The MDR disallowed portions of the broadband credits claimed by the taxpayers and assessed additional franchise taxes, interest and penalties to the taxpayers separately on several dates between December 22, 2014, and May 20, 2015. The taxpayers argue that each taxpayer is jointly and severally liable for the total combined income-tax liability of the affiliated group, therefore making the income-tax liability of each taxpayer the same as the total combined income-tax liability of the affiliated group. The chancellor granted summary judgment in favor of the taxpayers and ruled that the taxpayer’s tax liabilities under Chapters 7 and 13 of Title 271 of the Mississippi Code was the aggregate of the taxpayer’s separate franchise-tax liability and the total combined income-tax liability of the affiliated group. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor's ruling on the credit-computation issue. "The plain and unambiguous language of Section 57-87-5 clearly limits broadband credits that a taxpayer may take in any given year to 50 percent of the aggregate of the taxpayers’ franchise-tax liability and the total combined income-tax liability of the affiliated group." View "Mississippi Dept. of Revenue v. SBC Telecom, Inc. et al." on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) appealed a chancellor’s entry of summary judgment in favor of Comcast of Georgia/Virginia, Inc., n/k/a Comcast Communications, LLC. In July 2012, the MDOR commenced an audit of Comcast’s Corporate Income and Franchise Tax Returns for 2008, 2009, and 2010. At the conclusion of the audit, the MDOR determined that Comcast owed additional corporate franchise tax. Specifically, the MDOR found that Comcast’s preapportioned capital base and its Mississippi apportionment ratios should have been increased for each applicable year. The increase in Comcast’s capital base was attributable to the MDOR’s disallowance of the holding-company exclusion. The increase in Comcast’s Mississippi apportionment ratios was attributable to MDOR’s inclusion of all of Comcast’s Mississippi destination sales as gross receipts. The application of the audited apportionment ratios to the audited capital base resulted in additional taxable capital apportioned to Mississippi for each year, with a corresponding increase in franchise tax due for each year. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined that because the MDOR’s franchise-tax assessment does not fairly represent the true value of Comcast’s capital in Mississippi, the chancellor’s judgment was correct. View "Mississippi Dept. of Revenue v. Comcast Cable Communications, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Department of Revenue (Department) conducted an audit of the Mississippi corporate tax returns of The Williams Companies, Inc. (Williams), for the years 2008 through 2010. During the course of the audit, Williams filed amended returns removing the capital of its single-member limited-liability companies (SMLLCs) from its calculation of capital employed in the state, seeking a refund of franchise tax in the amount of $981,419. After the Department’s review of Williams’ records and returns, the Department issued an assessment. The calculation included the capital of Williams’ SMLLCs in Williams’ Mississippi franchise-tax base. This resulted in a refund of $231,641. Williams objected, arguing it should not have been assessed a franchise-tax on capital employed by its Mississippi subsidiaries because of ambiguous language in the Mississippi franchise tax statutes. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the holding of the chancery court that Williams could not exclude the capital of its SMLLCs from its franchise-tax base. View "The Williams Companies, Inc. v. Mississippi Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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HWCC-Tunica, LLC, and BSLO, LLC, had casino members’ rewards programs that allowed members to earn entries into random computerized drawings to win prizes. In 2014, after recalculating their gross revenue and deducting the costs of prizes from their rewards programs’ drawings, HWCC and BSLO filed individual refund claims for the tax period of October 1, 2011, through August 31, 2014. The Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) denied the refund claims in 2015. HWCC and BSLO appealed, and MDOR and the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC) filed a joint motion for summary judgment, arguing the plain language of Mississippi Code Section 75-76-193 (Rev. 2016) does not allow a casino to deduct the cost of prizes purchased for a rewards program’s drawings because “these promotional giveaways are not the result of ‘a legitimate wager’ as used in [Mississippi Code Section] 75-76-193.” After a hearing on the motion, the chancellor determined that Section 75-76-193 does not allow HWCC and BSLO to deduct the cost of the prizes and that there were no genuine issues of material fact. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the chancellor erred by giving deference to the MDOR’s and the MGC’s interpretations of Code Section 75-76-193. That error notwithstanding, the Supreme Court found the chancellor reached the right conclusion: that no genuine issues of material fact existed. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s grant of summary judgment. View "HWCC-Tunica, Inc. v. Mississippi Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law

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In 2007, the Mississippi Department of Revenue (the Department) notified Caesars Entertainment, Inc. (Caesars), that an examination concerning its past tax returns, including its 2005 tax return, had been initiated and that the statutes of limitation in Mississippi Code Sections 27-7-49 and 27-13-49 were arrested. The Department concluded its examination on in early 2013, finding no overpayment or underpayment by Caesars. In February 2014, the Mississippi Supreme Court issued a decision that concerned a casino’s ability to use gaming license credits to offset its income tax liability. In response, Caesars filed an amended tax return seeking a refund for the period January 1 to June 13, 2005. The Department denied Caesars’ refund claim on the basis that the time to ask for a refund had expired. Both the Board of Review and Board of Tax Appeals affirmed the Department’s denial. Under Mississippi Code Section 27-77-7 (Rev. 2017), Caesars appealed the Department’s denial to the Chancery Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The chancellor granted the Department’s motion for summary judgment, finding that Caesars’ refund claim was untimely. On appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, Caesars argued Section 27-7-49(2) (Rev. 2017) extended the statute of limitations found in Section 27-7-313 (Rev. 2017), which gave a taxpayer additional time to file a refund claim after an audit and gave the Department additional time to determine a taxpayer’s correct tax liability and to issue a refund regardless of when a refund claim was submitted. The Department argued Section 27-7-49(2) applied only to the Department and its time frame to examine and issue an assessment. After review, the Supreme Court found Caesars' time to file an amended tax refund claim was not tolled or extended, and that the Department had three years to examine a taxpayer's tax liability, absent exceptions under Section 27-7-49. Therefore, the Court affirmed the chancellor's grant of summary judgment to the Department. View "Caesars Entertainment, Inc. v. Mississippi Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) and the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Mississippi filed suit against Wine Express, Inc., Gold Medal Wine Club, and Bottle Deals, Inc., in Mississippi Chancery Court. In early 2017, the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Mississippi Department of Revenue and the Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Division of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office investigated the shipment of wine and other alcoholic beverages into the state. The investigation revealed that most Internet retailers made it “impossible” to place an order for alcoholic beverages once it was disclosed that the shipment would be to a location in Mississippi. This, however, was not so for the Defendants’ websites. In December 2017, the State sued the Defendants for injunctive relief to enforce the provisions of the “Local Option Alcoholic Beverage Control Law.” The State sought injunctive relief, disgorgement, monetary relief, attorneys’ fees, and punitive damages. Defendants moved for dismissal claiming that Mississippi courts lack personal jurisdiction over Defendants. After a hearing on the matter, the trial court granted Defendants’ motion. The State appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that the trial court erred by finding that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the Defendants. View "Fitch v. Wine Express Inc." on Justia Law

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G4, LLC, entered into a lease in 2009 with the City of Picayune, Mississippi, for land on the grounds of the Picayune Municipal Airport. After the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors assessed ad valorem taxes on the leased land, G4 paid the taxes under protest and petitioned the Board for a refund and for a refund of taxes it had paid on lots in the Tin Hill subdivision. The Board denied G4’s petition, and G4 appealed to the Circuit Court of Pearl River County, which affirmed. G4 appealed, asserting that, according to the Mississippi Supreme Court’s decision in Rankin County Board of Supervisors v. Lakeland Income Properties, LLC, 241 So. 3d 1279 (Miss. 2018), it was automatically exempt from paying ad valorem taxes on the airport property. The Supreme Court agreed, reversed and remanded the circuit court’s decision that affirmed the Board’s refusal to refund the airport property taxes. The Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision that G4 was not entitled to a refund of taxes paid on the Tin Hill subdivision lots. View "G4, LLC v. Pearl River County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court in this case was whether NRG Wholesale Generation’s proffered expert used an acceptable method to determine the “true value” of its power plant in computing ad valorem tax. The expert used a mixture of the sales-comparison approach, the income approach, and the cost approach to determine the true value of the facility. Lori Kerr, the tax assessor for Choctaw County, and Choctaw County, Mississippi (collectively, the “County”), contended that Mississippi law mandates a trended historical cost-less-depreciation approach to calculate the true value of industrial personal property. The circuit court found in favor of the County and excluded NRG’s proffered expert testimony. NRG argued the circuit court abused its discretion. In addition, NRG also argued the circuit court erred in denying its motion to change venue because because many of the jurors knew the county officials named as defendants in this case, a fair trial in Choctaw County was impossible. The Supreme Court held the Mississippi Department of Revenue (the “DOR”) regulation controlled and that NRG’s expert applied an unacceptable method to determine true value. Therefore, the circuit court did not err in excluding NRG’s proffered expert testimony. Additionally, because NRG was afforded a fair and impartial jury, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to change venue. View "NRG Wholesale Generation LP v. Kerr" on Justia Law

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Michael and Vickie Kansler moved to Mississippi from New York for Michael’s job and, over the following years, exercised stock options stemming from that employment. The Kanslers took the position that the stock options’ income was taxable only in Mississippi, which reduced their tax burden significantly. New York saw things differently and found a substantial portion of the income taxable by New York. This liability to another state would have entitled the Kanslers to a credit on their Mississippi taxes worth more than $250,000. However, by the time the New York audit was finished, the Mississippi statute of limitations barred the Kanslers from amending their Mississippi returns. They argued the Mississippi statute of limitations unconstitutionally discriminated against interstate commerce. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined Mississippi’s treatment of the statute of limitations for amending tax returns was "unremarkable" and appeared to be shared with many other states. The Kanslers’ dormant Commerce Clause argument, on the other hand, was novel, and depended on an unprecedented and erroneous attempt to apply the “internal consistency test,” intended to evaluate the apportionment of taxes, to the collateral effects of a statute of limitations. The Court held that the challenge was instead governed by the discrimination/Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc. 397 U.S. 137 (1070) balancing test employed by the United States Supreme Court in Bendix Autolite Corp. v. Midwesco Enterprises Inc., 486 U.S. 888 (1988), the only United States Supreme Court case to scrutinize a statute of limitations under the dormant Commerce Clause. The Court affirmed the Mississippi Department of Revenue’s decision to refuse the refund request. View "Kansler v. Mississippi Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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BTH Quitman Hickory, LLC, challenged the amount of the ad valorem taxes assessed by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors by appealing the assessments to circuit court. However, BTH Quitman did not submit a bond with its appeals; therefore, the Board of Supervisors moved to dismiss the appeals. The circuit court found in favor of BTH Quitman, and the Board filed this interlocutory appeal. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court addressed a similar issue in its opinion in Natchez Hospital Co., LLC v. Adams County Board of Supervisors, 238 So. 3d 1162 (Miss. 2018), it reversed the circuit court’s judgment and remanded the case for the circuit court to dismiss BTH Quitman’s case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Board of Supervisors of Clarke County, Mississippi v. BTH Quitman Hickory, LLC" on Justia Law