Justia Tax Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Ohio
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) upholding the decision of the tax commissioner denying Colonial, Inc.'s application for a tax refund, holding that there was no error.In its application, Colonial argued that it was entitled to a refund of $269,432 in resort-area taxes that it paid from 2011 through 2016. Specifically, Colonial sought to recover a locally-imposed resort-area gross receipts excise tax that the village of Put-in-Bay originally enacted in 1995, arguing that, under Ohio Rev. Code 5739.101, the village must react the resort-area tax after each decennial census. The tax commissioner denied the refund claim, and the BTA affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the BTA correctly affirmed the tax commissioner's denial of Colonial's application for a refund. View "Colonial, Inc. v. McClain" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) upholding the tax commissioners denial of Appellant's claim for a sales tax refund, holding that the BTA erred in part.Appellant Cincinnati Federal Savings & Loan Co. filed a refund claim seeking recovery of $57,412.58, claiming that it purchased nontaxable accounting services or, alternatively, nonntaxable customized software. The tax commissioner denied the claim. The BTA affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the BTA's decision, holding (1) with respect to the customization of software, the BTA erred by failing to apply the true-object test to the charges at issue; and (2) Appellant's remaining propositions of law were without merit. View "Cincinnati Federal Savings & Loan Co. v. McClain" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) abating a tax penalty imposed against Appellee by the Tax Commissioner of Ohio, holding that the BTA's abatement of the penalty was clearly erroneous.The tax commissioner assessed unpaid tax in the amount of $4,821 as against Appellee and exercised his statutory discretion to impose a fifteen percent penalty amounting to $723. The BTA upheld the tax assessment against Appellee but found that the tax commissioner had abused his discretion in assessing a penalty. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the BTA's holding that the tax commissioner abused his discretion and that the BTA's order abating the penalty were clearly erroneous. View "Karr v. McClain" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the writ of mandamus sought by Pike County Convention and Visitor's Bureau (Relator) against Pike County Board of Commissioners and the Pike County auditor ordering them to disburse to the bureau the proceedings of a "bed tax," a county-imposed sales tax on hotel lodging, holding that Relator was not entitled to the writ.In 2020, the county commissioners for Pike County enacted a resolutions that redirected the bureau's portion of the bed-tax proceeds to the chamber "acting as a Convention and Visitors Bureau, as defined by law," stating as justification the bureau's "financial mismanagement." The bureau brought this action seeking disbursement of bed-tax proceeds that had been withheld by the county. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the county commissioners' action lay within their discretion. View "State ex rel. Pike County Convention & Visitor's Bureau v. Pike County Board of Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a tax imposed solely upon a small number of billboard operators is a discriminatory tax that violates the rights to freedom of speech and a free press protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.The City of Cincinnati imposed a tax on outdoor advertising signs, but through definitions and exemptions within the city's municipal code, the tax burdens feel predominantly on two billboard operators only. The two billboard operators (Appellants) sought a declaration that the tax violated their constitutional rights to free speech and a free press and requesting an injunction against the tax's enforcement. The trial court permanently enjoined the City from enforcing the tax. The court of appeals reversed in part. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the injunction, holding that the billboard tax did not survive strict scrutiny and therefore impermissibly infringed on Appellants' rights to free speech and a free press. View "Lamar Advantage GP Co. v. City of Cincinnati" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) dismissing these appeals of final determinations of the tax commissioner on the grounds that they were untimely, holding that Am.Sub.H.B. No. 197 tolled the time limitation for filing the appeals, and Appellant filed the notices of appeal with both the tax commissioner and the BTA during the tolling period.On April 29, 2020, the tax commissioner journalized his final determinations upholding the tax assessments in each case. Service was completed by certified mail on May 4, 2020. Appellant delivered a notice of appeal to the tax department on June 26, 2020. The next day Appellant filed the notices of appeal with the BTA. The BTA dismissed both appeals as untimely. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 22(A)(1)(c) of H.B. 197 tolled Appellant's appeal period and that Appellant's appeals were timely filed. View "Chapman Enterprises, Inc. v. McClain" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) affirming the City of Cleveland's taxation of Hazel Willacy's stock-option income that she realized in 2016, holding that Willacy's propositions of law lacked merit.Willacy earned the disputed stock options in 2007 from her former employer while she was working in Cleveland. In 2009, Willacy retired and moved to Florida without having exercised any of the options. In 2014 and 2015, Willacy exercised the majority of the options and immediately resold the shares. In 2016, Willacy exercised the remaining options. Her former employer withheld her municipal-income-tax obligation and paid it to Cleveland. Willacy sought a refund on the grounds that she did not live or work in Cleveland. The refund was denied, and the BTA affirmed the denial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Cleveland's taxation of Willacy's 2016 compensation was required under municipal law and did not violate her due process rights under either the United States or Ohio constitutions. View "Willacy v. Cleveland Board of Income Tax Review" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) upholding the tax commissioner's denial of a municipality's request for an exemption for tax years 2015, 2016, and 2017, holding that the BTA reasonably and lawfully upheld the denial of an exemption.The village of Obetz enacted an ordinance in 2017 in an effort to reinstate the tax-exempt status of real property under a tax-increment-financing (TIF) arrangement after it expired in 2014. The commissioner explained that the 2017 could not retroactively reinstate the exemption for tax years 2015, 2016, and 2017 because Ohio Rev. Code 5709.40(G) provides that an exemption may begin no earlier than a tax year that "commences after the effective date of the ordinance." The BTA affirmed, agreeing that the 2017 ordinance created a new exemption rather than extending the earlier one so that section 5708.40(G) barred the exemption from applying during the relevant tax years. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the BTA's decision was reasonable and lawful. View "Obetz v. McClain" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) that upheld three use-tax assessments based on Appellant's purchase of three trucks, holding that the BTA erred by failing to correlate its findings with the distinct primary uses of the trucks.The trucks at issue were two Peterbilt trucks and one Lodal truck. Appellant argued that because it purchased the three trucks for use in its business as a for-hire motor carrier, the purchase were exempt from sales and use tax under Ohio Rev. Code 5739.02(B)(32)'s "highway transportation for hire" exemption. The tax commissioner and the BTA determined that the exemption did not apply to the purchases because Appellant's use of the trucks to transport waste material to landfills did not qualify as the transportation of "personal property belonging to others." The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) for purposes of section 5739.02(B)(32), waste is "personal property belonging to" the person or entity that generated it when the person or entity has an agreement with the hauler that specifies where the waste is to be taken for disposal; and (2) because the generators of the waste hauled by the Peterbilt trucks designated the destination of the waste, the Peterbilt trucks were entitled to the exemption. View "N.A.T. Transportation, Inc. v. McClain" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the portion of the court of appeals' judgment upholding the General Assembly's enactment of laws that centralize the collection and administration of net-profits taxes but reversed the portion of the judgment upholding the portion of the legislation allowing the state to retain .5 percent of the collected taxes, holding that the retention provision exceeds the General Assembly's authority.Appellants, several cities and villages, all impose a net-profits tax, which is a tax on income earned within their boundaries. After the General Assembly passed laws imposing centralized administration of those taxes Appellants brought this lawsuit arguing that the legislation violates their home-rule authority and exceeds the General Assembly's constitutional power to limit the power of municipalities to levy taxes. The Supreme Court held (1) the laws imposing centralized administration constitute an act of limitation within the General Assembly's explicit constitutional authority; and (2) the law providing for the state's retention of .5 percent of municipal net-profits taxes a fee or a tax for the state's centralized administration is unconstitutional. View "Athens v. McClain" on Justia Law