Justia Tax Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
by
In 2014, Salvatore Groppo pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the transmission of wagering information as a "sub-bookie" in an unlawful international sports gambling enterprise. He was sentenced to five years' probation, 200 hours of community service, a $3,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment. In 2022, Groppo moved to expunge his conviction, seeking relief from a potential tax liability of over $100,000 on his sports wagering activity. He argued that the tax liability was disproportionate to his relatively minor role in the criminal enterprise.The district court denied Groppo's motion to expunge his conviction. The court reasoned that expungement of a conviction is only available if the conviction itself was unlawful or otherwise invalid. The court also stated that the IRS's imposition of an excise tax does not provide grounds for relief as 'government misconduct' that would warrant expungement.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court held that because Groppo alleged neither an unlawful arrest or conviction nor a clerical error, the district court correctly determined that it did not have ancillary jurisdiction to grant the motion to expunge. The court explained that a district court is powerless to expunge a valid arrest and conviction solely for equitable considerations, including alleged misconduct by the IRS. View "USA V. GROPPO" on Justia Law

by
The case involves the United States government's action to reduce federal tax liens to judgment and foreclose on real property. The government sought to foreclose on tax liens against a property owned by Komron Allahyari. Shaun Allahyari, Komron's father, was named as an additional defendant due to his interest in the property through two deeds of trust. The district court found that the government was entitled to foreclose on the tax liens and sell the property. However, the court did not have sufficient information to enter an order for judicial sale and ordered the parties to submit a Joint Status Report. Shaun Allahyari filed an appeal before the parties submitted the Joint Status Report and stipulated to the value of the property to be sold.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court explained that the district court's order was not final because it did not have sufficient information to enter an order for judicial sale. The court also clarified that for a decree of sale in a foreclosure suit to be considered a final decree for purposes of an appeal, it must settle all of the rights of the parties and leave nothing to be done but to make the sale and pay out the proceeds. Because that standard was not met in this case, there still was no final judgment. The court therefore dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "USA V. ALLAHYARI" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff-taxpayer formed a nonprofit with tax-exempt status that facilitated the donation of timeshares by timeshare owners. Taxpayer also formed Resort Closings, a for-profit service that handled the real estate closings for timeshares donated to DFC. Donors paid a donation fee to DFC and shouldered the timeshare transfer fees. Taxpayer, his sister, and other associates appraised the value of the unwanted timeshares.Under 26 U.S.C. Sec. 6700, imposed a penalty on taxpayer for his involvement in the organization or sale of tax shelters that made false statements or involved exaggerate valuation. The panel upheld the district court’s determination on summary judgment that taxpayer was liable for the appraisals of the associates because, as a matter of law, taxpayer knew or had reason to know the associates were disqualified as appraisers under the Treasury regulations, and taxpayer forfeited his argument on appeal that he was unaware the appraisals would be imputed to the non-profit he formed. . View "JAMES TARPEY V. USA" on Justia Law

by
Taxpayers did not file returns for 2007 and 2012. The Tax Court concluded that taxpayers owed no deficiencies or penalties for those years, because the partnership losses claimed for those years exceeded the IRS’s adjusted non-partnership deficiencies.   The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded for recalculation of the deficiencies and penalties for those years. The panel held that the unsigned, unfiled tax returns on which the partnership losses were reported were legally invalid because they had not been filed and executed under penalty of perjury and, therefore, could not be used to offset non-partnership income in an individual deficiency proceeding. Accordingly, the panel reversed the Tax Court’s deficiency determinations for these years and remanded with instructions to determine taxpayers’ deficiencies without regard to any partnership losses claimed on the legally invalid tax returns. For 2009 through 2011, taxpayers reported no tax liability because of large net operating losses (NOLs) from partnerships subject to the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA). The panel explained that when carried forward as deductions, net operating losses composed of partnership losses can offset a taxpayer’s non-partnership income or instead are part of the “net loss from partnership items” under Internal Revenue Code Section 6234(a)(3), as it was then in effect. The panel remanded for the Tax Court to assess the non-partnership items in the recomputed deficiencies for those years, accounting for the TEFRA-eligible partnership components of the net-operating-loss deductions only in the Section 6234(a)(3) calculations of “net loss from partnership items.” View "CIR V. RITCHIE STEVENS, ET AL" on Justia Law

by
The United States sued several heirs of A.P., alleging that they were trustees of the trust or received estate property as transferees or beneficiaries and were thus personally liable for estate taxes under 26 U.S.C. Section 6324(a)(2). The United States also alleged that two of the heirs were liable for estate taxes under California state law. The district court ruled in favor of Defendants on the Tax Code claims and in favor of the United States on the state law claims.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment in favor of Defendants, and remanded with instructions to enter judgment in favor of the government on its claims for estate taxes and to conduct any further proceedings necessary to determine the amount of each defendant’s liability for unpaid taxes. The panel held that Section 6324(a)(2) imposes personal liability for unpaid estate taxes on the categories of persons listed in the statute who have or receive estate property, either on the date of the decedent’s death or at any time thereafter (as opposed to only on the date of death), subject to the applicable statute of limitations. The panel next held that Defendants were within the categories of persons listed in Section 6324(a) when they had or received estate property and are thus liable for the unpaid estate taxes as trustees and beneficiaries. The panel further held that each Defendant’s liability cannot exceed the value of the estate property at the time of the decedent’s death or the value of that property at the time they received or had it as trustees and beneficiaries. View "USA V. JAMES D. PAULSON, ET AL" on Justia Law

by
Defendant LuLaRoe, a multilevel-marketing company that sells clothing to purchasers across the United States through “fashion retailers” located in all fifty states, allegedly charged sales tax to these purchasers based on the location of the retailer rather than the location of the purchaser. LuLaRoe eventually refunded all the improper sales tax it collected, but it did not pay interest on the refunded amounts. Plaintiff, an Alaska resident who paid the improperly charged sales tax to LuLaRoe, brought this class action under Alaska law on behalf of herself and other Alaskans who were improperly charged, for recovery of the interest on the now-refunded amounts collected and for recovery of statutory damages. The district court certified the class under Rule 23(b)(3) and LuLaRoe appealed under Rule 23(f).   The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s order certifying the class of Alaska purchasers and remanded for further proceedings. The panel first rejected LuLaRoe’s argument that class certification was improper because the small amount of money currently owed to some class members was insufficient to support standing and the presence of these class members in the class made individualized issues predominant over class issues. The panel next rejected LuLaRoe’s assertion that some purchasers knew that the sales tax charge was improper but nevertheless voluntarily paid the invoice which contained the improperly assessed sales tax amount, and thus, under applicable Alaska law, no deceptive practice caused any injury for these purchasers. Finally, the panel held that LuLaRoe’s third argument, that class certification should be reversed because some fashion retailers offset the improper sales tax through individual discounts, had merit. View "KATIE VAN V. LLR, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

by
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) generally has three years from the date a taxpayer files a tax return to assess any taxes that are owed for that year. In this case, we must decide whether a partnership “filed” its 2001 tax return by faxing a copy of that return to an IRS revenue agent in 2005 or by mailing a copy to an IRS attorney in 2007. If either of those actions qualified as a “filing” of the partnership’s return, the statute of limitations would bar the IRS’s decision, more than three years later, to disallow a large loss the partnership had claimed.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Tax Court’s decision. The court held that neither Seaview Trading LLC’s faxing a copy of their delinquent 2001 tax return to an IRS revenue agent in 2005, nor mailing a copy to an IRS attorney in 2007, qualified as a “filing” of the partnership’s return, and therefore the statute of limitations did not bar the IRS’s readjustment of the partnership’s tax liability. The court concluded that because Seaview did not meticulously comply with the regulation’s place-for-filing requirement, it was not entitled to claim the benefit of the three-year limitations period. The court wrote that its conclusion was consistent with cases from other circuits and a long line of Tax Court decisions. The court also rejected Seaview’s argument that the regulation’s place-for-filing requirement applies only to returns that are timely filed—not to those that are filed late. View "SEAVIEW TRADING, LLC, AGK INVE V. CIR" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner made an offer in compromise (OIC) to settle his outstanding tax liability. Under the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act (TIPRA), Petitioner submitted a payment of twenty percent of the value of his OIC, acknowledging that this TIPRA payment would not be refunded if the OIC was not accepted. The Commissioner of Internal Revenue did not accept the OIC because the Commissioner concluded that ongoing audits of Petitioner's businesses made the overall amount of his tax liability uncertain. Petitioner then sought a refund of his TIPRA payment.   In a previous appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the Internal Revenue Service did not abuse its discretion by returning the OIC, but vacated the Tax Court’s determination that the IRS had not abused its discretion in refusing to return the TIPRA payment. The Ninth Circuit remanded for the Tax Court to consider its refund jurisdiction in the first instance. On remand, the Tax Court held that it did not have jurisdiction.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Tax Court’s decision because there is no specific statutory grant conferring jurisdiction to refund TIPRA payments. The panel explained that, as the Tax Court correctly noted, it is a court of limited jurisdiction, specifically granted by statute, with no authority to expand upon that statutory grant. View "MICHAEL BROWN V. CIR" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs sell products as third-party merchants through Amazon’s “Fulfilled by Amazon” (“FBA”) program. Prior to October 2019, California required FBA merchants to collect and pay sales tax on sales to California residents. California’s Marketplace Facilitator Act altered that requirement. However, the Marketplace Facilitator Act is not retroactive and the Department continued to seek sales tax remittances from third-party FBA merchants for pre-October 2019 sales.Plaintiffs claimed that the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration’s tax collection efforts against Guild members violated the Due Process, Equal Protection, Privileges and Immunities, and Commerce Clauses of the United States Constitution, as well as the Internet Tax Freedom Act, 47 U.S.C. Sec. 151. The district court granted the Department’s motion to dismiss, holding that the Guild’s claims were barred by the Tax Injunction Act (“TIA”), 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1341.The Ninth Circuit affirmed, finding that the district cour properly dismissed the action pursuant to the TIA, which bars federal jurisdiction over the Guild’s claims because the Guild seeks an injunction that would to some degree stop the assessment or collection of a state tax and an adequate state law remedy exists. View "ONLINE MERCHANTS GUILD V. NICOLAS MADUROS" on Justia Law

by
Taxpayers challenged the constitutionality of Subpart F’s ability to permit taxation of a CFC’s income after 1986 through the Mandatory Repatriation Tax (“MRT”). The district court dismissed the action for failure to state a claim, denied taxpayers’ cross-motion for summary judgment, and taxpayers appealed.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The court held that the MRT is consistent with the Apportionment Clause and it does not violate the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. That clause requires that a direct tax must be apportioned so that each state pays in proportion to its population. The court acknowledged that the Sixteenth Amendment exempts from the apportionment requirement the category of “incomes, from whatever source derived.” The court observed that courts have consistently upheld the constitutionality of taxes similar to the MRT notwithstanding any difficulty in defining income, that the realization of income does not determine the tax’s constitutionality, and that there is no constitutional ban on Congress disregarding the corporate form to facilitate taxation of shareholders’ income.   The court explained that the MRT serves the legitimate purpose of preventing CFC shareholders who have not yet received distributions from obtaining a windfall by never having to pay taxes on their offshore earnings that have not yet been distributed. The MRT accomplished this legitimate purpose by rational means: by accelerating the effective repatriation date of undistributed CFC earnings to a date following passage of the TCJA. View "CHARLES MOORE V. USA" on Justia Law