Justia Tax Law Opinion Summaries

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment affirming the Nebraska Department of Revenue's denial of Gelco Fleet Trust's claim for a refund on sales tax it allegedly overpaid on the purchase price of a new vehicle, holding that there were no errors on the record.Gelco submitted a claim for refund of sales tax, which the Department denied. On appeal, the district court affirmed the Department's decision, determining that the Department properly included the disputed amount in the sales price and calculation of sales tax. The Supreme Court affirmed holding that the district court's determination conformed to the law, was supported by competent evidence, and was neither arbitrary capricious, nor unreasonable. View "Gelco Fleet Trust v. Neb. Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law

by
In the district court, Appellants brought suit against the Internal Revenue Service for its responses to the Appellants’ twelve Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests. The district court ultimately granted summary judgment to the IRS on all issues. Appellants appealed the district court’s order awarding summary judgment to the IRS, as well as seven opinions and orders supporting the order.   Appellants set forth three procedural arguments averring that the IRS is barred from asserting a Glomar Response to Requests 1–5: (1) collateral estoppel; (2) judicial estoppel; and (3) the official acknowledgment doctrine.  Appellants argued that the IRS benefitted from its argument to the Fifth Circuit that no informant existed, resulting in favorable evidentiary and statute of limitations rulings, and thus the IRS cannot now change its position that no informant exists.   The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The court explained that the IRS’s Glomar Response to the existence of whistleblower documents, as requested by the Appellants in FOIA Requests 1–5, does not bear on its prior position in the Fifth Circuit cases regarding the existence of a whistleblower. Since the IRS’s positions are not inconsistent, the IRS is not judicially estopped from its Glomar Response.  Further, the court held that the official acknowledgment doctrine does not apply to Appellants’ argument because the IRS did not officially acknowledge in any prior proceeding that it did, or did not, possess records pertaining to potential informants, the subject of Requests 1–5. View "Thomas Montgomery v. IRS" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court denying a refund of Business and Professional Occupational License (BPOL) taxes Coxcom, LLC paid to Fairfax County on the grounds that the Internet Tax Freedom Act's (ITFA) grandfather clause permitted the County to impose the tax, holding that the grandfather clause did not apply.Since 2000, Cox had provided internet access service to customers in the County. In 2016, Cox filed a request for a BPOL tax refund for the tax years 2013 through 2015, asserting that the federal ITFA preempted the County from imposing the BPOL tax on internet access service revenues. The circuit court concluded that the BPOL tax qualified for the grandfather clause exemption. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court correctly found that the ITFA applied to the County's BPOL tax; and (2) the grandfather clause did not rescue the County's imposition of a tax on internet access services. View "Coxcom, LLC v. Fairfax County" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner went to trial for three counts of tax fraud under 18 U.S.C. Sections 2 and 287 and one count of attempted tax evasion under 26 U.S.C. Section 7201. A jury convicted on all four counts, and he was sentenced to a period of incarceration, supervised release, and restitution. The district court vacated the convictions for the first three counts of tax fraud but left in place the fourth for tax evasion. Petitioner timely appealed, renewing his arguments that his counsel was ineffective 1) in failing to properly move for judgment of acquittal as to Count Four, 2) in calling him to the witness stand, and 3) in failing to advise him of the dangers of testifying in his own defense.   The Eleventh Circuit granted Petitioner’s habeas petition and vacated his conviction under Count Four for tax evasion. The court explained that as to Count Four for attempted tax evasion, the basic inquiry on the ineffective assistance of counsel claim is, whether Petitioner’s trial counsel was deficient in failing to move for judgment of acquittal under Fed. R. Crim. P. 29 after the Government’s presentation of its case-in-chief, and, if so, whether that deficiency prejudiced the outcome of the trial.   The court wrote that here Petitioner’s counsel’s performance was deficient because he failed to properly move for judgment of acquittal when the Government had not carried its evidentiary burden in its case-in-chief. Further, had Petitioner’s counsel properly moved for judgment of acquittal, the district court would have been legally required to grant it for the same reasons the Eleventh Circuit did under a de novo standard. View "Peter Hesser v. USA" on Justia Law

by
In these actions brought by tax sale buyers for declaratory and injunctive relief alleging that Maryland sheriffs exceeded their express and implied authority by adopting policies concerning how to execute writs of possession in tax sale foreclosure cases the Court of Appeals held that the sheriffs had the implied authority to adopt policies for how to serve writs of possession in such cases.This case involved a challenge to two policies used by sheriffs in evicting people from their homes when a tax sale buyer obtains a judgment foreclosing the right of reception with respect to a property and the homeowner does not redeem the property. Under the "mover policy," sheriffs require tax sale buyers to provide movers to remove personal property from the premises when serving writs of possession. Under the "weather policy," sheriffs postpone the service of writs of possession during bad whether conditions. The Supreme Court affirmed the lower courts' judgments in favor of the sheriffs, holding that, in the execution of writs of possession, both the mover policy and the weather policy constituted a valid exercise of powers daily implied by the sheriffs' expressly given duties and authority. View "Thornton Mellon LLC v. Frederick County Sheriff" on Justia Law

by
To dispute a property tax assessment under Detroit ordinances and Michigan state law, taxpayers “make complaint on or before February 15th" before the Board of Assessors. Any person who has complained to the Board of Assessors may appeal to the Board of Review. For the Michigan Tax Tribunal to have jurisdiction over an assessment dispute, “the assessment must be protested before the board of review.” On February 14, 2017, Detroit mailed tax assessment notices to Detroit homeowners, including an “EXTENDED ASSESSORS REVIEW SCHEDULE” that would conclude on February 18, just four days later. At a City Council meeting on February 14, the city announced: “The Assessors Review process will end this year February the 28th.” News outlets reported the extension and that Detroit had waived the requirement of appearance before the Board of Assessors so residents could appeal directly to the Board of Review. Detroit did not distribute individualized mailings to so inform homeowners.Plaintiffs filed a class action, alleging violations of their due process rights; asserting that Michigan’s State Tax Commission assumed control of Detroit’s flawed property tax assessment process from 2014-2017 so that its officials were equally responsible for the violations; and claiming that Wayne County is “complicit” and has been unjustly enriched. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, citing the Tax Injunction Act and the principle of comity. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that a state remedy is uncertain. View "Howard v. City of Detroit" on Justia Law

by
The Mobile County Board of Equalization ("the Board") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Mobile Circuit Court ("the trial court") to dismiss, for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, an appeal filed by Atwood Drilling, Inc. ("Atwood"), challenging the Board's final assessment of ad valorem property taxes. This case concerns a dispute between Atwood and the Board as to the assessed value of personal property owned by Atwood ("the property"). Atwood timely filed a notice of appeal to the trial court, challenging the assessment as too high. the Board moved to dismiss Atwood's appeal, alleging: (1) taxes on the property had become delinquent because they had not been paid by January 1, 2021; and (2) by failing to pay the disputed amount before January 1, 2021, Atwood had not satisfied a jurisdictional requirement in § 40-3-25 -- specifically, the requirement that, when appealing a tax assessment, a taxpayer who has not executed a supersedeas bond must pay the assessed taxes before they become delinquent. In support of the motion to dismiss, the Board attached a receipt from the office of the Mobile County Revenue Commissioner ("the Commissioner") indicating that Atwood had not paid the assessed taxes as of January 19, 2021. Atwood alleged that it had sent the Commissioner via certified mail on December 10, 2020, and suggested that delivery had been likely delayed because of service disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board argued that the "mailbox rule" in § 40-1-45 did not extend to undelivered tax payments. At some point following the Board's filing of the motion to dismiss, Atwood paid the tax bill, including penalties and interest, with a second check. After holding several hearings on the matter, the trial court, without stating the findings on which its decision was based, entered an order denying the Board's motion to dismiss on September 10, 2021. Because the appeal was not perfected, the Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, and should have granted the Board's motion to dismiss. The petition was thus granted and the writ issued. View "Ex parte Mobile County Board of Equalization." on Justia Law

by
The Internal Revenue Service is barred from issuing a summons “with respect to any person if a Justice Department [criminal] referral is in effect with respect to such person.” I.R.C. Section 7602(d)(1). The IRS issued a summons for information to Equity Investment Associates, LLC. (“Equity”). Equity sought to quash that summons, arguing that an existing criminal referral for its lone agent must be treated as a referral for Equity itself.   The Fourth Circuit rejected this argument and affirmed the district court’s judgment. The court held under Section 7602, a business entity is a distinct person from its agents. And because the court only look to whether the taxpayer itself has been referred to the Justice Department, Equity cannot quash the summons. Thus, the district court did not abuse its discretion when denying Equity’s motion for an evidentiary hearing. And because Equity cannot meet that lower burden, it cannot meet the “heavy burden of disproving the actual existence of a valid civil tax determination or collection purpose.” View "Equity Investment Associates, LLC v. US" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Board of Tax Appeals (BOTA) concluding that Johnson County's valuations for the 2016 and 2017 tax years involving eleven Walmart and Sam's Club "big box" stores in the County were too high because they improperly relied on unadjusted sales and rental income data from other properties subject to build-to-suit leases, holding that In re Prieb Properties, LLC 275 P.3d 56 (2012), is overruled.The BOTA in this case did its duty to follow Prieb, a 2012 decision that crafted a rule of law to exclude appraisal opinions founded on unadjusted build-to-suit lease data to support valuations used in the process of ad valorem taxation. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) Prieb's rationale invades BOTA's longstanding province as the fact-finder in the statutory process for appraising real property at its fair market value for ad valorem tax purposes; and (2) by following Prieb, BOTA improperly imposed an exclusionary rule on the County's evidence rather than simply considering its weight and credibility. View "In re Equalization Appeal of Walmart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

by
VanDemark owns the Used Car Supermarket, which sells cars from two lots in Amelia, Ohio. In 2013-2014, VanDemark funneled away his customers’ down payments and left them off his tax returns. He used this stashed-away cash to finance the mortgage on his mansion.The Sixth Circuit affirmed VanDemark’s convictions for helping prepare false tax returns, 26 U.S.C. 7206(2), structuring payments, 31 U.S.C. 5324(a)(3), and making false statements to federal agents, 18 U.S.C. 1001. The down payments were taxable upon receipt, not, as VanDemark argued, when customers purchased the cars after leasing them. With respect to his missing 2013 personal return, the court stated that a defendant is guilty even if he helps prepare, without presenting, the fraudulent return. View "United States v. VanDemark" on Justia Law