Articles Posted in West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

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These consolidated cases involved tax assessments for Petitioner's property. In the first appeal, Petitioner challenged the 2010 tax assessment to his property. The Board of Review and Equalization determined that Petitioner's appeal was not timely filed, and the circuit court affirmed. In the second appeal, Petitioner sought to adjust the 2011 assessment of his property, asserting that the Assessor erred in using a cost approach analysis to determine the value of the property to be $7.5 million. The Board ordered that the assessed value be reduced to approximately $6.5 million. The circuit court affirmed the Board's reduction in value. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's orders pertaining to both the 2010 and 2011 assessments, holding (1) the circuit court erred in finding that Petitioner's appeal of the 2010 tax assessment was untimely; and (2) the Board abused its discretion in utilizing a hybrid income approach to adjust the 2011 assessment, and because Petitioner failed to establish that the Assessor's cost approach assessment was erroneous, the 2011 tax assessment for the property should be adjusted to reflect the Assessor's initial cost approach assessment value. View "Lee Trace LLC v. Raynes" on Justia Law

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Respondents, owners of coal-bearing properties in Taylor County, challenged tax assessments on their properties during the 2010 tax year. The County Assessor challenged the State Tax Commissioner's appraisals of Respondents' property in hearings before the Board of Equalization and Review after she had previously accepted those appraisals. The Board of Equalization and Review accepted the Assessor's proposed changes and changed the valuations of Respondents' properties, thus increasing the natural resources property tax owed by Respondents. The circuit court reversed the Board's valuation changes, finding that the Assessor violated W. Va. Code 11-1C-10(g) by challenging the Commissioner's appraisals. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) pursuant to section 11-1C-10(g), upon receiving the appraisal of natural resources property from the Commission, a county assessor may either accept or reject that proposal; (2) if the assessor rejects the appraisal, the assessor must show just cause for doing so; and (3) if the assessor accepts the appraisal, the assessor is foreclosed from later challenging the appraisal. View "Collett v. Eastern Royalty, LLC" on Justia Law

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Hospital sought full tax refunds in relation to Hospital's attempt to reclassify certain services from either "inpatient" or "outpatient" hospital services to "physicians' services" for purposes of the West Virginia Health Care Provider Tax Act. The Office of Tax Appeals denied Hospital's request, and the circuit court affirmed. In seeking to reclassify items of overhead as "physicians' services," Hospital focused on its use of certain billing codes that were required by federal law. The Tax Commission argued that Hospital's reliance on these billing codes to identify what qualifies as "physicians' services" under the Act was misplaced. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the overhead items at issue did not qualify as "physicians' services" under the Act. View "Wheeling Hosp., Inc. v. Lorensen" on Justia Law

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The underlying litigation in this case involved the Legislature's enactment of "Special Acts" for nine county boards of education requiring them to divert a portion of their regular levy receipts in support of their local libraries. The Kanawha County Board of Education (BOE) originally brought suit in circuit court, alleging that one such Act's requirement that the BOE contribute to the funding of the Kanawha County Public Library violated equal protection. The Supreme Court agreed and found the statute unconstitutional. In response, the Legislature amended the statute. The County BOE then filed the instant action, arguing that the statute as amended violated equal protection. The circuit court invalidated as unconstitutional the Special Act to the extent it required the BOE to divert a portion of its regular levy receipts in support of the Library or transfer the funding obligation to its excess levy, and enjoined the Library and the West Virginia BOE from enforcing the Special Act as it pertained to the County BOE's library funding obligation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Act, to the extent it obligated the County BOE to divert a portion of its regular or excess levy receipts to the Library, was unconstitutional and unenforceable. View "Kanawha County Pub. Library Bd. v. Bd. of Educ. of County of Kanawha" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the valuation and corresponding tax assessment of seventy-nine condominium units owned by Pope Properties / Charleston LLC (Pope Properties). The Kanawha Assessor determined that for ad valorem tax purposes for 2011, the seventy-nine units should be valued as follows: $63,700 for each of Pope Properties' sixteen one-bedroom units and $70,000 for each of its sixty-three two-bedroom units. The Board of Equalization and Review upheld the determination. Pope Properties appealed, contending that the units should be valued at $42,000 for each of the one-bedroom units and $49,000 for each of the two-bedroom units. At issue on appeal was the Assessor's use of the market data approach in determining the value of the units rather than the income approach to valuation advocated by Pope Properties. The circuit court affirmed the Board's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Assessor did not err in choosing or applying the market data approach in this case. View "Pope Props. / Charleston LLC v. Kanawha County Assessor " on Justia Law

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This case was before the Supreme Court for a second time. Here the case was before the Court on a petition for writ of prohibition brought by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) seeking to prohibit the circuit court from enforcing its order requiring Roger Crandall, the president, CEO and chairman of Mass Mutual, to submit to deposition. The underlying lawsuits were part of a series of 412i retirement plan cases against multiple defendants, including MassMutual. Respondents alleged fraud and tax fraud in their complaints regarding annuities and pension plans that allegedly subjected Respondents to tax and compliance penalties and other collateral liabilities. In MassMutual I, the Court issued a writ of prohibition prohibiting the circuit court from enforcing its orders that directed Crandall submit to deposition. In the instant appeal, MassMutual argued that the circuit court failed to comply with the Supreme Court's decision in MassMutual I in ordering its president to submit to deposition. The Supreme Court granted the requested writ, holding that the circuit court and Respondents failed to follow the directive of the Court in MassMutual I, and therefore, the court was prohibited from enforcing its order requiring Crandall to submit to deposition. View "State ex rel. Mass. Mut. Life Ins. v. Circuit Court" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated cases, Petitioners Mountain America, LLC, et al. (hereinafter "Mountain America") appealed from orders entered by the circuit court denying Mountain America's appeals from its ad valorem property tax assessments for tax years 2008 and 2009. In each case, the circuit court ruled that Mountain America's appeal was barred by res judicata because the Supreme Court had previously considered and decided Mountain America I, in which Mountain America unsuccessfully challenged its 2007 ad valorem property tax assessments regarding the same parcels of property as those whose assessments were contested in the 2008 and 2009 litigations. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's rulings in both cases, holding that the Court's decision in Mountain America I did not operate as a res judicata bar to preclude the instant litigation. Remanded for reinstatement of Mountain America's claims for relief from its 2008 and 2009 ad valorem property tax assessments and consideration of the merits thereof. View "Mountain Am., LLC v. Huffman" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, Feroleto Steel Company, did business in cutting large steel coils into smaller widths as specified by Petitioner's customers. The tax commissioner denied Petitioner an exemption from ad valorem property taxation, finding that the cutting of the steel coils to an individual customer's specifications results in a product of different utility. On appeal, the circuit court granted summary judgment to Respondents, the state tax commissioner, county assessor, and county commission. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Petitioner's cutting of steel coils into narrower steel coils, as determined by the specifications of Petitioner's customers, does not result in a product of different utility for the purpose of the ad valorem property tax exemption; and (2) therefore, Petitioner's inventory of steel coils was exempt from ad valorem taxation. View "Feroleto Steel Co. v. Oughton" on Justia Law

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After the State Tax Commissioner (Tax Department) appraised Century Aluminum of West Virginia's aluminum plant, Century Aluminum objected to the valuations. The Jackson County Commission sitting as a Board of Equalization and Review advised the company that it would not make any adjustment to the Tax Department's valuations. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) upholding the Tax Department's policy of how it considers functional obsolescence and economic obsolescence for categories of assets other than machinery and equipment; and (2) ruling that the Tax Department's policy of artificially limiting its consideration of obsolescence to a fifty percent reduction in the case of machinery and equipment complied with the requirement that property be valued at fair market value. View "Century Aluminum of W. Va., Inc. v. County Comm'n" on Justia Law

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The West Virginia Office of Tax Appeals rejected the challenge of ConAgra Brands, Inc. to assessments for unpaid corporation net income tax and business franchise tax. The assessments were imposed on apportioned royalties ConAgra received from the licensing of its intangible trademarks and trade names for use through the United States, including West Virginia. In setting aside the decision of the Office of Tax Appeals, the circuit court held that ConAgra's licensing transactions did not constitute doing business in West Virginia and that the assessments failed to meet the requirements of the due process and commerce clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The State Tax Commissioner sought reinstatement of the assessments for corporation net income tax and business franchise tax. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court, holding that the order setting aside the decision of the Office of Tax Appeals and invalidating the assessments should not be disturbed. View "Griffith v. Conagra Brands, Inc." on Justia Law