Justia Tax Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by plaintiffs, customers of the DWP, claiming that DWP overcharged for electric power and then transferred the surplus funds to the City, thereby allowing the City to receive what amounts to an unlawful tax under California law. Plaintiffs alleged claims under the Hobbs Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and 42 U.S.C. 1983, as well as claims under state law.The panel agreed with its sister circuits that the Hobbs Act does not support a private civil right of action; held that municipal entities are not subject to liability under RICO when sued in their official capacities, but the RICO claims in this case were asserted against the defendant City and DWP officials in their personal capacities; held that the RICO claim was nonetheless properly dismissed because it failed as a matter of law because it did not adequately allege a predicate act in extortion under California law or the Hobbs Act, mail and wire fraud, or obstruction of justice; and held that, under the Johnson Act, the district court lacked jurisdiction over the the section 1983 claims. Because plaintiffs have provided no basis for concluding that any of these deficiencies could be cured by an amendment of the complaint, and based upon the panel's own thorough review of the record, the panel held that amendment would be futile. View "Abcarian v. Levine" on Justia Law

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After Sanmina claimed a worthless stock deduction on its federal tax return, the IRS issued a summons for the memoranda authored by Sanmina in-house counsel. Sanmina objected on the basis that they were protected both by attorney-client privilege and the attorney work-product doctrine. On subsequent remand, the district court determined that the memoranda were covered by both attorney-client privilege and work-product protection, but that those privileges had been waived.The Ninth Circuit held that Sanmina waived the attorney-client privilege when it disclosed the Attorney Memos to DLA Piper. However, the panel held that such disclosure did not automatically waive work-product protection over the Attorney Memos and, rather, waiver of work-product immunity requires either disclosure to an adversary or conduct that is inconsistent with the maintenance of secrecy against its adversary. In this case, the panel held that Sanmina did not expressly waive work-product immunity merely by providing the Attorney Memos to DLA Piper, but its subsequent use of the DLA Piper Report to support its tax deduction in an audit by the IRS was inconsistent with the maintenance of secrecy against its adversary. Therefore, the panel explained that Sanmina's implied waiver of the work-product protection only extends to the factual portions of the Attorney Memos. The panel granted in part and denied in part the IRS's petition to enforce its summons. View "United States v. Sanmina Corp." on Justia Law

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BNSF filed suit under the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 (4-R Act), alleging that the tax on its intangible personal property is "another tax that discriminates against a rail carrier" under 49 U.S.C. 11501(b)(4).The Ninth Circuit joined the Fourth, Seventh, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits and held that challenges to discriminatory property taxes may proceed under 49 U.S.C. 11501(b)(4). The court rejected the Department's claims to the contrary and explained that this is not a challenge to exemption-based discrimination. The panel agreed with the district court that the proper comparison class for BNSF was Oregon's commercial and industrial taxpayers, and that the intangible personal property tax assessment discriminated against BNSF in violation of the 4-R Act. View "BNSF Railway Co. v. Oregon Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the tax court's dismissal, based on lack of jurisdiction, of untimely petitions for redetermination of federal income tax deficiencies. In this case, taxpayers' attorneys selected an overnight delivery service that was not then on the published list and the error would not have mattered if the petitions had nonetheless arrived the next day. However, they were not received by the tax court until two days after being dropped off at a FedEx office in California.The panel held that the tax court did not err by concluding that the petitions had not been timely received and that the mailbox rule did not apply. Furthermore, because I.R.C. 6213(a)'s time limits are jurisdictional, the panel held that equitable exceptions such as equitable tolling and waiver do not apply. Finally, the panel held that there was no basis for declaring the notice of deficiency invalid because of an improperly addressed notice. View "Organic Cannabis Foundation v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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Under 26 U.S.C. 2036(a)(1), a grantor's interest in a grantor-retained annuity trust (GRAT) is a sufficient "string" that requires the property interest to be included in the gross estate. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the IRS in an action brought by plaintiff, challenging the inclusion of her mother's GRAT in a gross estate for purposes of the estate tax. The panel explained that the annuity flowing from a GRAT falls within the class intended to be treated as substitutes for wills by section 2036(a)(1). In this case, the panel held that the grantor retains enjoyment of a GRAT and thus it is properly included in the gross estate. Finally, even if plaintiff's challenges to 26 C.F.R. § 20.2036-1(c)(2), which includes the formula the IRS uses to calculate the portion of the property includable under section 2036(a) were not waived, the formula would not apply in this case. View "Badgley v. United States" on Justia Law

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A challenge to the timeliness of a partnership proceeding must be raised in the partnership proceeding itself and that failure to do so results in a forfeiture of the argument. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the tax court's dismissal of taxpayers' petition challenging adjustments to a Final Partnership Administrative Adjustment (FPAA) involving taxpayers' partnership. In an earlier appeal, the panel upheld the validity of the partnership proceeding and the adjustments made therein. The panel held that taxpayer's challenges in this case essentially amounted to a collateral attack on the partnership proceeding. In this case, the taxpayers had an opportunity to challenge the FPAA during the partnership proceeding, but elected not to do so. View "Bedrosian v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a securities fraud action because it was barred by the act of state doctrine. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants knowingly failed to disclose legal deficiencies under Mexican tax law in the 2012 APA Ruling and sold shares knowing these legal deficiencies existed.The panel held that plaintiffs' claims under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 would require a United States court to pass judgment on the validity of a 2012 ruling by Mexico's tax authority. In this case, the mandatory elements of applying the act of state doctrine were satisfied and the policies underlying the doctrine weighed in favor of applying it to bar plaintiffs' claims. Agreeing with its sister circuits, the panel held that the district court was not required to consider the Sabbatino factors. The panel declined to reconsider whether a tax ruling by the Mexican government, that remains valid in Mexico, complied with Mexico's tax laws. View "Royal Wulff Ventures LLC v. Primero Mining Corp." on Justia Law

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Amazon filed a petition in the tax court challenging the IRS's valuation of a buy-in payment for pre-existing intangibles related to the company's contribution to a cost sharing arrangement, whereby Amazon and a holding company for the European subsidiaries would be treated as co-owners of the intangibles. The tax court ruled primarily with Amazon and the Commissioner appealed.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the tax court's decision and held that the definition of "intangible" in the applicable transfer pricing regulations did not include residual-business assets. Although the language of the definition is ambiguous, the panel held that the drafting history of the regulations shows that "intangible" was understood to be limited to independently transferable assets. View "Amazon.com v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the United States in a tax refund action. On appeal, taxpayer argued that the penalties were wrongly imposed because it did not actually participate in a listed transaction and thus had nothing to disclose, and that its due process rights were violated because it was not afforded an opportunity for pre-collection judicial review.The court found neither contention meritorious, holding that taxpayer was required to disclose its participation in the transaction at issue because it was similar to the listed transaction identified in Notice 2007-83. The court held that taxpayer could not evade a finding of substantial similarity solely by claiming a deduction on a different basis or by using a different intermediary to complete the transaction. The court also held that taxpayer received all the process it was due where the combination of pre-collection administrative review plus post-collection judicial review satisfied the requirements of the Due Process Clause. View "Interior Glass Systems, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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At issue was the validity of the Treasury regulations implementing 26 U.S.C. 482, which provides for the allocation of income and deductions among related entities. The Ninth Circuit reversed the tax court's decision that 26 C.F.R. 1.482-7A(d)(2) was invalid under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).The panel held that the Commissioner did not exceed the authority delegated to him by Congress under section 482. In this case, section 482 did not speak directly to whether the Commissioner may require parties to qualified cost-sharing arrangements (QCSA) to share employee stock compensation costs in order to receive the tax benefits associated with entering into a QCSA, and the Treasury reasonably interpreted section 482 as an authorization to require internal allocation methods in the QCSA context and concluded that the regulations are a reasonable method for achieving the results required by the statute. Therefore, the panel held that the regulations were entitled to deference under Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984). The panel also held that the regulations at issue were not arbitrary and capricious under the APA. View "Altera Corp. v. Commissioner" on Justia Law