Justia Tax Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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Petitioner petitioned the United States Tax Court to redetermine her income tax deficiency after the Commissioner of Internal Revenue concluded that she was subject to a 10-percent exaction under 26 U.S.C. Section 72(t) of the Internal Revenue Code for early distributions she made from her pension plan. Petitioner argued that she is not liable for the 10-percent exaction under Section 72(t) because it is a penalty, an additional amount, or an addition to tax within the meaning of Section 6751(c) of the Internal Revenue Code and that the Commissioner failed to obtain written supervisory approval for the initial determination to impose the exaction, as required by Section 6751(b). The United States Tax Court ruled that the 10-percent exaction under Section 72(t) is not subject to the written supervisory requirement because it is a tax, not a penalty, an additional amount, or an addition to tax, and Petitioner is liable for the 10-percent exaction.   The Second Circuit affirmed the Tax Court’s judgment. The court explained that the plain and unambiguous language of Section 72(t) establishes that the Exaction is a tax, not a penalty, an additional amount, or an addition to tax within the meaning of Section 6751(c) that requires written supervisory approval. Thus, Petitioner is liable for the Exaction. View "Grajales v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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Under 26 U.S.C. 7345, if a court determines that a "seriously delinquent" certification was erroneous, it may order the Secretary of the Treasury to notify the Secretary of State of that fact. No other relief is authorized. The Second Circuit affirmed the tax court's dismissal in part insofar as it dismissed certain of petitioner's claims as moot, and vacated and remanded in part with instructions to the tax court court to dismiss all the remaining claims as moot insofar as it dismissed those claims for lack of statutory jurisdiction.In 2019, petitioner filed a petition with the tax court challenging the Commissioner's certification that she had a "seriously delinquent tax debt" under 26 U.S.C. 7345. While her challenge was pending, the Commissioner reversed the certification as erroneous and so notified the Secretary of State. In 2020, the tax court dismissed the petition, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to assess the validity of her underlying liability for the penalties the IRS had assessed against her, which formed the basis for her debt, and that her challenge to her certification was moot in light of the IRS's reversal. In this case, petitioner has received all the relief to which she is entitled by statute and, to the extent that the voluntary cessation doctrine exists primarily to keep parties from acting strategically to avoid judicial review, that is not a concern here. Finally, petitioner's challenge, under section 7345, to the underlying penalties assessed against her was moot at the time the tax court issued its order. View "Ruesch v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Plaintiff States filed suit alleging that the $10,000 cap on the federal income tax deduction for money paid in state and local taxes (SALT), enacted as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, violates the United States Constitution.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and denial of the States' cross-motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that the States had standing and that their claims were not barred by the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA). However, the court rejected the States' contention that the SALT deduction is constitutionally required by the text of Article I, Section 8 and the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution, and thus the SALT deduction cap effectively eliminates a constitutionally mandated deduction for taxpayers. Rather, the court concluded that the Constitution itself does not limit Congress's authority to impose a cap. In this case, the States' arguments mimic those that the Supreme Court rejected in South Carolina v. Baker, 485 U.S. 505, 515–27 9 (1988). In Baker, the Court held that Congress had the power to tax interest earned on state-issued bonds even though it had not previously done so. The court also concluded that the SALT deduction cap is not coercive in violation of the Tenth Amendment or the principle of equal sovereignty. View "New York v. Yellen" on Justia Law

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Joseph Wilson, the sole owner and beneficiary of a foreign trust, filed his returns for tax year 2007 late, the IRS assessed a 35% penalty that applies to beneficiaries of foreign trusts, and Wilson paid the penalty. After his death, plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of Wilson's estate for a refund, arguing that the IRS should have imposed only a 5% penalty that applies to owners of foreign trusts. The district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs.The Second Circuit vacated the district court's judgment, holding that when an individual is both the sole owner and beneficiary of a foreign trust and fails to timely report distributions she received from the trust, the government has the authority under the Internal Revenue Code to impose a 35% penalty. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. The court denied motions for leave to file a supplemental appendix that includes documents outside the record on appeal and for leave to file a sur-reply brief as moot. View "Wilson v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York and the district court's permanent injunction enjoining the County from foreclosing on the Cayuga Indian Nation's real property for nonpayment of taxes. The court agreed with the district court that tribal sovereign immunity from suit bars the County from pursuing tax enforcement actions under Article 11 of the New York Real Property Tax Law against the Cayuga Indian Nation. The court explained that the County's foreclosure proceedings are not permitted by the traditional common law exception to sovereign immunity that covers certain actions related to immovable property. In this case, the foreclosure actions fall outside the purview of the common law version of the immovable-property exception. The court also rejected the County's reading of City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, 544 U.S. 197 (2005), as abrogating a tribe's immunity from suit. View "Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Seneca County" on Justia Law

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New York State appealed from the district court's consolidated judgments invalidating the State's Opioid Stewardship Act (OSA), which requires opioid manufacturers and distributors to make an annual payment to fund statewide opioid-related services but prohibits them from passing the costs of those payments through to their customers.The Second Circuit held that the OSA's opioid stewardship payment is a tax within the meaning of the Tax Injunction Act (TIA), and that the district court should have dismissed plaintiff's challenges to the payment under the TIA for lack of jurisdiction. After considering the factors in Entergy Nuclear Vt. Yankee, LLC v. Shumlin, 737 F.3d 228, 232–33 (2d Cir. 2013), and San Juan Cellular Telephone Co. v. Public Service Commission, 967 F.2d 683, 685 (1st Cir. 1992), the court concluded that the primary purpose of the opioid stewardship payment is to raise revenue, not to punish or regulate plaintiffs and other licensees who are required to make the payment. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgments, except insofar as they relate to the pass-through prohibition, which is not before the court. View "Association for Accessible Medicines v. James" on Justia Law

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Neither the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua nor the 1842 Treaty with the Seneca Nation create an individualized exemption from federal income taxes for income "derived from" Seneca land. In this case, petitioners filed suit in tax court seeking a redetermination of their 2008 and 2009 joint individual tax returns, in which they sought an exemption for income derived from their gravel operation, contending that their gravel sales during 2008 and 2009 were exempt from federal income taxes pursuant to the two treaties.The Second Circuit affirmed the tax court's determination that neither treaty created an exemption and rejected petitioners' argument suggesting otherwise because petitioners' view is premised upon the erroneous presumption that an exemption from federal taxes for income derived from land held in trust for American Indians extends to land that remains in the possession of the Seneca Nation of Indians. The court also noted that, to the extent the 1842 Treaty with the Seneca creates an exemption from taxes on Seneca land, that exemption does not cover income derived from Seneca land by individual enrolled members of the Seneca Nation. View "Perkins v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the tax court's determination that petitioners held Wrentham House, a historic mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, as a capital asset eligible for capital loss deduction rather than as real property used in a taxpayer's trade or business eligible for ordinary loss deduction.The court held that the tax court did not err in determining that (i) petitioners held Wrentham House as a capital asset at the time of its sale and were therefore eligible upon its sale to deduct the loss only as a capital loss, and that (ii) petitioners were liable for late-filing additions to tax and accuracy-related penalties. View "Keefe v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of Pfizer's claim against the United States for overpayment interest on its delayed tax refund. The court held that jurisdiction of Pfizer's claim for overpayment lies exclusively with the United States Court of Federal Claims. The court explained that overpayment interest is a straightforward claim against the federal government that was covered by the Tucker Act. Accordingly, the court transferred the case to the Court of Federal Claims. View "Pfizer Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's second amended complaint (SAC) for failure to state a claim. The SAC alleged that Costco charged its customers sales tax on the full price of items subject to a manufacturer's discount in situations where New York law provided that Costco, rather than the customer, was liable for the tax. The court held that these claims must be brought in a New York administrative proceeding under New York Tax Law 1139, which provided the exclusive remedy for claims that a tax, penalty, or interest was erroneously, illegally or unconstitutionally collected. Likewise, the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's unjust enrichment claims and his claim under New York General Business Law 349. View "Guterman v. Costco Wholesale Corp." on Justia Law