Articles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

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These appeals concerned whether Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were exempt from the payment of state and local taxes imposed on the transfer of real property in Maryland and South Carolina. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac claimed that they were exempt from such transfer taxes under 12 U.S.C. 1723a(c)(2) and 1452(e) respectively. The district courts in Maryland and South Carolina rejected the Counties' claims, concluding that the general tax exemptions applicable to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, while not applicable to real property taxes, did cover real property transfer taxes, thus making a distinction between property and transfer taxes. The district courts also concluded that Congress acted within its Commerce Clause power. The court held that the real property exclusions from the general tax exemptions of section 1723a(c)(2) and 1452(e) did not include transfer and recordation taxes; in the absence of a particular constitutional right that would trigger heightened scrutiny, the court held that a congressional exemption from state taxation under the Commerce Clause was subject to rational-basis review; Congress could exempt Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from state and local transfer taxes, even though they were collected in the context of interstate transactions, because the taxes could substantially interfere with or obstruct the constitutionally justified missions of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in bolstering the secondary mortgage market; and the Counties' remaining arguments for finding the statutory tax exemptions unconstitutional were rejected. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district courts. View "Montgomery County, Maryland v. Federal National Mortgage Assoc." on Justia Law

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Phillip Morris sought review of the USDA's decision regarding the implementation of the Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act (FETRA), 7 U.S.C. 518 et seq. Phillip Morris challenged the USDA's decision to use 2003 tax rates instead of current tax rates in calculating how these assessments were to be allocated across manufacturers of different tobacco products. The court concluded that USDA's decision was a permissible interpretation of FETRA; there was no clear indication in the text of the statute, or in Congress's prior or subsequent action, that Congress intended for USDA to take a different course; and there was similarly no basis for concluding that USDA filled that gap with an unreasonable interpretation. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of USDA's motion for summary judgment. View "Philip Morris USA, Inc. v. Vilsack" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the government, seeking a refund of payments on a federal withholding tax penalty assessed against her under 26 U.S.C. 6672. The government counterclaimed against plaintiff and her husband to reduce to judgment the remaining balance of the trust fund recovery penalties assessed against them. The district court granted summary judgment to the government. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against the husband individually where he did not provide a basis of law for his contention that the assessment of the 100% penalty against him was not made within the limitation period set forth in section 6672; affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff because the undisputed record showed that she was properly liable for the 100% penalty where she was a "responsible person" under section 6672 during the relevant tax periods and where she "willfully" failed to see that the withholding taxes were paid; and affirmed the district court's determination of the amounts of the respective tax liabilities under section 6672. View "Johnson v. United States" on Justia Law

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Country Vintner sued Gallo, under North Carolina law over the wholesale distribution of an Argentinian wine. At issue on appeal was what expenses related to electronically stored information (ESI) were taxable under the federal taxation-of-costs statute, 28 U.S.C. 1920(4). The district court entered an order taxing only the costs of converting electronic files to non-editable formats, and transferring files onto CDs. The court agreed with the district court's finding that only the conversion of native files to TIFF and PDF formats, and the transfers of files onto CDs, constituted "making copies" under section 1920(f), and that none of Gallo's expenses constituted fees for exemplification. View "The Country Vintner v. E & J Gallo Winery" on Justia Law

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MASC filed an action in the district court seeking a declaration that South Carolina municipalities were entitled to assess municipal business license taxes based on, or measured by, the total flood insurance premiums collected in the particular municipality by insurance companies under an arrangement with FEMA. The district court denied the insurance companies' motion for summary judgment on grounds of preemption and sovereign immunity. The flood insurance premiums were federal property that could not be taxed and the participating private insurance companies, in their operation of and participation with the National Flood Insurance Program, were federal instrumentalities so closely connected with the federal government that they were immune from taxation. The federal government did not consent to this tax, and it was therefore invalid. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of partial summary judgment to MASC and denial of summary judgment to the insurance companies. View "Municipal Assoc. of SC v. USAA General Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

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Former co-pastors of the Greater Salem Church in North Carolina Defendants-Appellants Anthony and Harriet Jinwright appealed their convictions and sentences arising from a tax evasion scheme in which they omitted millions of dollars in taxable income from their jointly filed returns. Defendants raised a variety of challenges on appeal. Finding each contention to be without merit, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment. View "US v. Jinwright" on Justia Law

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Former Shareholders of Tarcon filed petitions in the Tax Court contesting the Commissioner's notices of transferee liability. The Tax Court ruled in favor of the Former Shareholders, applying Commissioner v. Stern, holding that the Commissioner could only collect from the Former Shareholders if, under North Carolina law, a Tarcon creditor could recover payments of Tarcon's debts from the Former Shareholders. The court concluded that the Tax Court properly identified and applied the controlling legal framework as set forth in Stern and it did not commit clear error in its factual findings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment in favor of the Former Shareholders. View "Starnes v. Commissioner, IRS; Stroupe v. Commissioner, IRS; Naples v. Commissioner, IRS; Morelli, Sr. v. Commissioner, IRS" on Justia Law

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The government asserted that petitioner had participated in a tax avoidance scheme to take advantage of the lower taxes in the Virgin Islands. At issue was whether the Tax Court abused its discretion in denying the motion of the Virgin Islands to intervene in this case, which was filed in response to a notice of deficiency issued by the IRS to petitioner for not paying U.S. income taxes. Because Tax Court Rule 1(b) gave the Tax Court broad discretion in deciding whether and to what extent to follow Rule 24 governing intervention and because Rule 24 itself conferred broad discretion on a trial court, the court gave deference to the Tax Court's decision to deny intervention, reviewing for only a clear abuse of discretion. Because the Tax Court's concerns over the consequences of granting the Virgin Islands' motion to intervene were not unreasonable, the court found no clear abuse of the Tax Court's broad discretion. View "McHenry v. Commissioner of IRS" on Justia Law

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Ocean Pines Association, a non-stock corporation, oversees a subdivision of more than thirty-five hundred acres in Berlin, Maryland. The Association was exempt from federal income taxation as an organization "not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare" pursuant to 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(4)(A). The Tax Court subsequently determined that the net income from two parking lots and a beach club owned by a tax-exempt association constituted "unrelated business taxable income." The association appealed. Because the income derived from the parking lots and beach club was not "substantially related" to the association's tax-exempt purpose, the court affirmed. View "Ocean Pines Assoc. v. Commissioner of IRS" on Justia Law

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This case presented two questions, each born of the efforts of Capital One, a credit card issuer, to defer significant tax liability. First, whether Capital One could retroactively change the method of accounting used to report credit-card late fees on its 1998-1999 tax returns in such a fashion as would reduce is taxable income for those years by roughly $400,000,000. Second, whether Capital One could deduct the estimated costs of coupon redemption related to its MilesOne credit card program before credit card customers actually redeemed those coupons. The court did not permit Capital One to retroactively change the method of accounting because allowing Capital One to do so would open the door to unilateral and retroactive changes in accounting methods with large and unpredictable implications for public revenue. The court also declined to permit the narrow coupon-with-sales exception to undermine the purposes of the all-events rule because little good and much mischief would ensue from upending the Commissioner's reasonable and longstanding interpretation of his regulation. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the Tax Court.