Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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Gold Forever, a music publishing company solely owned by Holland, has agreements with various artists entitling it to half of the royalties collected for the sale and performance of those artists’ work. Holland was a Motown artist and co-wrote several famous songs. His music forms some, but not all, of Gold’s catalog. BMI and Universal license others to use Gold’s music; they collect and remit the royalties to Gold. Holland owes millions of dollars to the IRS in taxes, interest, and penalties. In 2012, the IRS served notices of levy to BMI and Universal, identifying Gold as the “alter ego/nominee transferee of" Holland and requiring the companies to remit to the IRS property and rights to property that they were obligated to pay Gold. Beginning on October 6, 2016, the companies remitted $967,140.76 to the IRS. Gold made requests for refunds to the IRS within nine months. On December 6, 2017, Gold filed a wrongful levy action for the funds remitted beginning on October 6, 2016, alleging that most, if not all, of the money belongs either to Gold or to artists other than Holland. The court dismissed the suit as untimely. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The statute of limitations for a wrongful levy action cannot begin until there has been a levy that attaches to the property at issue. Notices of levy in 2012 did not constitute levies on royalties generated after the notices were served, so the statute of limitations did not bar the wrongful levy action. View "Gold Forever Music, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The defendants took part in a decade-long scheme surreptitiously to sell tax-free cigarettes, thereby defrauding federal, state, and local governments of more than $45 million in tax revenue. The federal government eventually uncovered the scheme and charged them with 34 counts, including conspiracy to commit mail or wire fraud 18 U.S.C. 1349; conspiracy to launder money, 18 U.S.C. 1956(h); and conspiracy against the United States, 18 U.S.C. 371. Maddux pleaded guilty to 29 counts; Carman, Coscia, and Smith went to trial, where a jury convicted each of them on various counts. The Sixth Circuit affirmed their convictions and sentences--Maddux to 120 months’ imprisonment, Carman to 60 months, Smith to 42 months, and Coscia to 36 months. The scheme involved use of interstate wire communications and the United States mails; it was Congress’s prerogative to punish this combination of conduct more severely than a violation of the Jenkins Act, 15 U.S.C. 376(a), which requires cigarette sellers to file monthly reports. The court rejected an argument that the trial court should have specifically instructed the jury that defendants were not charged with a violation of either the Jenkins Act or the Cigarette Trafficking Act, 15 U.S.C. 377(a). The indictment sufficiently alleged a scheme to defraud. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Murdock, an employee with the Tipton County Board of Education, received an email purporting to be from Dr. Bibb, Director of Tipton County Schools, requesting all 2016 employee W-2s and tax information. Murdock responded with a document containing information from the W-2s of every Board employee, including names, addresses, social security numbers, income information, deductions, exemptions, withholdings, tax payments and taxpayer identifying numbers. Murdock then learned that Bibb had not requested the information. The Tipton County Sheriff notified the U.S. Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service. The Board notified employees of the information release. Smith, a Board employee, filed suit under 26 U.S.C. 6103 and 7431. Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code prohibits “any local agency administering a program listed in [§ 6103](l)(7)(D)” from disclosing “return information.” Smith argues that, because the Board works with the Tennessee State Board of Education to administer the National School Lunch Program, the Board provided a qualifying SNAP benefit. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit, finding that the Board does not administer a SNAP benefit in providing lunches to students as part of the National School Lunch Program. View "Smith v. Tipton County Board of Education" on Justia Law

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In September 2005, the government assessed Chicorel $140,903.52 in income tax for the 2002 tax year. Chicorel died in 2006 having not paid the assessed taxes. On May 4, 2007, Behar, the estate’s personal representative, published a notice to creditors of the four-month deadline for presenting claims, but he did not mail the notice to the government despite it being a known creditor of the estate. In January 2009, the government filed a proof of claim in the probate proceeding concerning the tax assessment. Behar has not responded to the proof of claim; probate is ongoing. The government filed this collections proceeding in March 2016, seeking judgment on the 2005 tax assessment, which is the subject of the proof of claim. The district court granted the government summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the government’s 2009 proof of claim filing tolled the statute of limitations, 26 U.S.C. 6502(a), which provides that, after the government assesses a tax, “such tax may be collected by levy or by a proceeding in court, but only if the levy is made or the proceeding begun—(1) within 10 years after the assessment of the tax.” View "United States v. Estate of Chicorel" on Justia Law

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Losantiville Country Club hosted unprofitable nonmember events for many years, consistently using those losses to avoid paying tax on its investment income. Because the Internal Revenue Service determined that Losantiville did not hold nonmember events for the primary purpose of making a profit, the club could not offset its income from investments with losses from those nonmember activities. Invalidating those deductions resulted in Losantiville having underpaid tax on its unrelated business income between 2010 and 2012. Plus, the IRS imposed accuracy-related penalties. On appeal, the Tax Court upheld this determination, reasoning that Losantiville did not intend to profit from its nonmember events. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "Losantiville Country Club v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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Petitioners-appellants John Machacek, Jr. and Marianne Machacek were the sole shareholders of John J. Machacek, Jr., Inc. (Machacek, Inc.), a corporation organized under Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code. John was also an employee of Machacek, Inc. The Machaceks appealed the Tax Court’s ruling requiring them to treat as income the economic benefits resulting from Machacek, Inc.’s payment of a premium on John's life insurance policy under a compensatory split-dollar arrangement. Relying on the compensatory nature of the arrangement, the Tax Court rejected the Machaceks’ argument that the economic benefits should be treated as a shareholder distribution. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that the Tax Court did not consider the impact of a provision of the tax regulations specifically requiring that such economic benefits be treated as shareholder distributions. View "Machacek v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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Detroit residents voted to allow the school district to increase property taxes “for operating expenses.“ In 2013, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) announced its intent to capture some of that tax revenue to fund the construction of Little Caesars Arena for the Red Wings hockey team. In 2016, the DDA revised its plan to allow the Pistons basketball team to relocate to Arena. The Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (DBRA) agreed to contribute to the $56.5 million expenditure, including reimbursing construction costs that private developers had already advanced. The project is largely complete. Plaintiffs requested that the school board place on the November 2017 ballot a question asking voters to approve or disapprove of the agencies' use of tax revenue for the Pistons relocation. The board held a special meeting but did not put the question on the ballot. Plaintiffs filed suit. Count VIII sought a declaratory judgment that the board had authority to place the question on the ballot. Count IX sought a writ of mandamus ordering the board to place it on the ballot. The court dismissed Counts VIII and IX, noting that Plaintiffs could have filed suit in 2013. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs lack Article III standing. Failure to place Plaintiffs’ question on the ballot affects all Detroit voters equally; they raised only a generally available grievance about government. Michigan statutes do not give Detroit residents the right to void a Tax Increment Financing plan by public referendum, so a referendum would not redress Plaintiffs’ injury. View "Davis v. Detroit Public School Community District" on Justia Law

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Hartman and Ott co-founded Spectrum Tool & Design and divided management responsibilities. Ott was supposed to handle the company’s payroll taxes, which required him to withhold federal taxes from employees’ wages and send the money to the IRS. When Spectrum encountered financial difficulties, however, Ott failed to pay the taxes several times in 2004 and 2005. Hartman continued to rely on Ott to pay the taxes even after discovering the delinquency. After Spectrum went bankrupt, the government sued Hartman to recover the unpaid taxes. The district court granted the government summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that Hartman “willfully” failed to pay Spectrum’s taxes. The government imposes personal liability for outstanding payroll taxes on anyone who was “required to” pay these taxes and “willfully” failed to pay the funds to the IRS, 26 U.S.C. 6672(a). Hartman acted willfully by repeatedly claiming to believe that Ott paid the taxes when he no longer had any plausible basis for thinking that was so. He knew of Ott’s past failures and had ample means to identify and remedy Ott’s misconduct. View "United States v. Hartman" on Justia Law

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The IRS issued two “John Doe” summonses to Chase Bank without first obtaining approval in a federal district court as required by Internal Revenue Code section 7609(f), to obtain financial records relating to two limited liability companies. Those LLCs alleged that the IRS’s use of the John Doe summonses to obtain their financial records violated the Right to Financial Privacy Act, 12 U.S.C. 3401-3422. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction after determining that sovereign immunity barred the LLC’s claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, first holding that Congress intended to provide a remedy for violations in the collection of tax, but not in the assessment and determination of tax, so the LLCs do not have a monetary remedy under the Internal Revenue Code. An LLC does not fall under the Privacy Act’s waiver of sovereign immunity and the district court correctly held that it lacked jurisdiction over the claims. View "Hohman v. Eadie" on Justia Law

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The United States charged Hall with unlawful gambling and money laundering and obtained a preliminary criminal forfeiture order for 18 parcels in Knox County. The County determined that Hall owed substantial delinquent real property taxes, giving it a first lien under Tennessee law. Under 21 U.S.C. 853(n)(2), a party asserting an interest in property that is subject to criminal forfeiture may seek a hearing on his alleged interest within 30 days. Knox County filed an untimely claim. The court amended the preliminary forfeiture order to cover three more Knox County properties. Knox County filed a timely second claim and requested an interlocutory sale and delay of forfeiture. The United States stated that accrued taxes and interest would be paid, regardless of whether the taxing authority filed a claim, but argued that Knox County would have no legal interest in accruing taxes once title passes, citing the Supremacy Clause, and objected to delaying a final forfeiture order. The Sixth Circuit vacated the forfeiture order. Knox County has a legal interest in the property (tax lien), so the district court erred in dismissing its claim for lack of standing but it is not necessarily entitled to a hearing. The court may ascertain the scope of Knox County’s interest on summary judgment but must account for that interest before entering a final forfeiture order. The court did not abuse its discretion in denying Knox County’s motion for an interlocutory sale. View "United States v. Hall" on Justia Law