Justia Tax Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the order of the circuit court denying the City of Milwaukee's motion to dismiss this action brought by Saint John's Communities for recovery of unlawful taxes under Wis. Stat. 74.35, holding that Saint John's claim was procedurally deficient because Saint John did not pay the tax before filing its claim.Saint John's argued on appeal that section 74.35 contained no requirement that, prior to filing a claim for recovery of unlawful taxes against the City, taxpayers first pay the challenged tax. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed, holding (1) the plain language of section 74.35 required Saint John's first to pay the challenged tax or any authorized installment payment prior to filing a claim; and (2) the circuit court erred in denying the City's motion to dismiss Saint John's section 74.35 claim because it was procedurally deficient. View "Saint John's Communities, Inc. v. City of Milwaukee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Brown County's sales and use tax ordinance was consistent with Wis. Stat. 77.70 and therefore lawful and that there was no error in the proceedings below.Brown County Taxpayers Association (BCTA) argued that Brown County's sales and use tax was invalid because it did not dollar-for-dollar directly reduce the County's property tax levy, in violation of section 77.70, but instead was impermissibly used to fund new capital projects. The circuit court granted Brown County's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) nothing in section 77.70 requires the dollar-for-dollar offset sought by BCTA; and (2) because the Brown County sales and use tax ordinance does, in fact, directly reduce the property tax levy, the ordinance is permissible. View "Brown County v. Brown County Taxpayers Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court's order that allowed the City of Waukesha to seek certiorari review of a tax assessment determination of the City of Waukesha Board of Review, holding that Wis. Stat. 70.47 did not allow the City to seek certiorari review of a decision of the Board.At issue on appeal was whether a municipality can seek certiorari review of a determination of the municipality's board of review. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative, holding that section 70.47 does not allow the City to seek certiorari review of a decision of the Board. View "City of Waukesha v. City of Waukesha Board of Review" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's determination that Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways (collectively, Southwest) does not qualify for the "hub facility" property tax exemption, holding that Southwest was not entitled to the hub facility exemption.The hub facility provision exempts from property taxes all property of an air carrier company if the company operated at least forty-five common carrier departing flights each weekday in the prior year from a facility at a Wisconsin airport. On appeal, Southwest argued that, under a strict but reasonable interpretation of Wis. Stat. 70.11(42)(a)2.a, it was entitled to the property tax exemption for both its 2013 and 2014 tax assessments. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Southwest did not operate forty-five departing flights on each weekday without exception, Southwest was not entitled to the hub facility exemption for either the 2013 or 2014 property tax assessment. View "Southwest Airlines Co. v. State Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The term “processing” in Wis. Stat. 77.52(2)(a)11. includes the separation of river segment into its component parts.The Wisconsin Department of Revenue imposed a tax on Petitioners pursuant to section 77.52(2)(a)11. for the “processing” of river sediments into reusable sand, waste sludge, and water. The Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission upheld the Department’s determination. Petitioners filed a petition for judicial review, arguing that the term “processing” is not expansive enough to cover the separation of river sediment into its component parts. The circuit court and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioners were liable for the sales and use tax imposed by section 77.52(2); and (2) although the Court has decided to end the practice of deferring to administrative agencies’ conclusions of law, pursuant to Wis. Stat. 227.57(10), the Court will give “due weight” to the experience, technical competence, and specialized knowledge of an administrative agency as it considers its arguments. View "Tetra Tech EC, Inc. v. Wisconsin Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The classification of real property for tax purposes is based on the actual use of the property, and an injunction prohibiting agricultural use of a residentially-zoned property, which is based on a restrictive covenant, does not control the property’s tax assessment classification. However, the record before the Board in this case contained no evidence that the property was used agriculturally within the meaning of Wisconsin tax law.Donald Thoma and Polk Properties LLC (collectively, Thoma) challenged the Village of Slinger’s 2014 property tax assessment for land Thoma attempted to develop into a residential subdivision. The property previously operated as a farm and received an agricultural classification for tax assessment purposes. Thoma and the Village later entered into an agreement that contained a restrictive covenant prohibiting Thoma from using the land for agriculture. The Village then obtained an injunction prohibiting any agricultural use on the property. The Board voted to uphold the assessor’s assessment, which the assessor reached by changing the use classification from agricultural to residential. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board’s decision upholding the tax assessment was lawful and supported by a reasonable view of the evidence; and (2) the circuit court did not err in denying Thoma’s request to vacate the original order. View "Thoma v. Village of Slinger" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the court of appeals erred in concluding that the City of Milwaukee complied with Wis. Stat. 70.32(1) in its tax assessment of property owned by Metropolitan Associates. Also on appeal, Metropolitan asked the Supreme Court to substitute the court’s judgment for the circuit court’s judgment regarding the credibility of witnesses and the relative weights to assign to various pieces of evidence. The Supreme Court held (1) the City’s assessment of Metropolitan’s property complied with the statute; (2) the circuit court’s findings of fact regarding the reliability of respective appraisals were not clearly erroneous; and (3) the circuit court’s findings were sufficient to support its determination regardless of whether the presumption of correctness was employed. View "Metropolitan Associates v. City of Milwaukee" on Justia Law

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Applying Wis. Stat. 70.47(7)(aa) and Wis. Stat. 74.37(4)(a) in a manner that required submission to a tax assessor’s search as a precondition to challenging the revaluation of their property violated Plaintiffs’ due process rights.Plaintiffs brought this case claiming that the assessment of their real property was excessive and that sections 70.47(7)(aa) and 74.37(4)(a), as applied, were unconstitutional because they conditioned their right to challenge the assessor’s valuation of the property on submission to a search of the interior of their home. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the Town. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that sections 70.47(7)(aa) and 73.37(4)(a) were unconstitutionally applied to Plaintiffs. View "Milewski v. Town of Dover" on Justia Law

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Regency West Apartments sued the City of Racine to recover refunds from allegedly excessive taxation for tax years 2012 and 2013. The circuit court dismissed Regency West’s claims. The court of appeals affirmed. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the City’s appraisals of Regency West’s property complied with Wisconsin law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the valuation methodologies the City used for the assessments at issue did not comply with Wisconsin law; (2) the lower courts erred in concluding that Regency West failed to overcome the presumption of correctness for the 2012 and 2013 tax assessments; and (3) Regency West proved that the City’s tax assessments for the tax years at issue were excessive. Remanded to the circuit court to calculate the amount of Regency West’s refund. View "Regency West Apartments LLC v. City of Racine" on Justia Law

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This case was one of several cases involving litigation between Lands’ End and the City of Dodgeville challenging the City’s property tax assessment of Lands’ End’s headquarters. In 2009, Lands’ End made an offer of settlement, which the City rejected. Eventually, the court of appeals remanded the matter to the circuit court with directions to enter judgment in favor of Lands’ End in the amount of $724,292 plus statutory interest. At issue on remand was whether Lands’ End was entitled to interest at the statutory rate of interest in effect when the offer of settlement was made under Wis. Stat. 807.01(4) or at the statutory rate of interest in effect when Lands’ End recovered the judgment under the amended version of the statute. The circuit court awarded interest at “1 percent plus the prime rate,” the rate in the amended version of the statute. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Lands’ End did not have a vested right in the twelve percent interest rate in effect in section 807.01(4) at the time Lands’ End made its offer of settlement; and (2) awarding interest under the amended version of the statute did not violate the Due Process or Equal Protection clauses of the federal and state constitutions. View "Lands' End, Inc. v. City of Dodgeville" on Justia Law