Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Tax Law
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In 2018, Li filed a Form 211 with the IRS Whistleblower Office (WBO) alleging tax violations by the “target taxpayer,” seeking a monetary whistleblower award under 26 U.S.C. 7623(b). A WBO classifier reviewed Li’s Form 211 and the target taxpayer’s returns and concluded that Li’s allegations were “speculative and/or did not provide specific or credible information regarding tax underpayments or violations of internal revenue laws,” making Li ineligible for an award. The WBO did not forward Li’s form to an IRS examiner for any potential action against the target taxpayer.Li appealed to the Tax Court, which rejected the case on summary judgment. The court found that the WBO adequately performed its evaluative function and did not abuse its discretion by rejecting the form for an award. The D.C. Circuit remanded for dismissal of the case for lack of jurisdiction. The WBO rejected Li’s Form 211 for providing vague and speculative information it could not corroborate and did not forward it to an IRS examiner; the IRS did not take any action against the target taxpayer. There was no proceeding and no “award determination,” so the Tax Court had no jurisdiction to review the WBO’s threshold rejection of Li’s Form 211. View "Li v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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Polselli underpaid his federal taxes. The IRS has made formal assessments against him; the outstanding balance is over $2 million. While investigating assets to satisfy those liabilities, IRS Officer Bryant learned that Remo used entities to shield assets and that Remo “may have access to and use of” bank accounts held in the name of his wife, Hanna. Bryant served a summons on a bank, seeking account and financial records of Hanna “concerning” Remo. Remo was a client of the law firm Abraham & Rose; Bryant served the firm with a summons. The firm asserted attorney-client privilege and represented that it did not retain any of the requested documents. Bryant then issued identical summonses against banks, seeking any financial records of Abraham & Rose and a related law firm, “concerning” Remo. Bryant did not notify Hanna or the law firms of the bank summonses.After receiving notices from their banks, Hanna and the law firms petitioned to quash the summonses, alleging that the IRS failed properly to notify them under 26 U.S.C. 7609(a). The district court and Sixth Circuit agreed with the IRS that 7609(b)(2) and (h) waived sovereign immunity only for parties entitled to notice of the summonses and because the IRS was seeking the bank records “in aid of the collection” of Remo’s assessed liability, there was no entitlement to notice under 7609(c)(2)(D)(i). The district court, therefore, lacked subject-matter jurisdiction. View "Polselli v. United States Department of the Treasury" on Justia Law

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The Browns, U.S. citizens, lived in Australia while Mr. Brown worked for Raytheon. The IRS received the Browns' amended returns for 2015 and 2017, claiming the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, signed by attorney Castro, but not accompanied by powers of attorney. The Browns' second amended return for 2015, again signed by Castro, also did not append any powers of attorney. The IRS disallowed the refund claims, indicating that "as an employee of Raytheon . . . [Brown] may have entered into a closing agreement . . . irrevocably waiving” Browns’ rights to claim the Exclusion under section 911(a).The Browns filed a refund suit under 26 U.S.C. 6532 and 7422(a). The government argued that the Browns had not “duly filed” their administrative refund claims in accordance with section 7422(a) because they had not personally signed and verified their amended returns or properly authorized an agent to execute them. The Browns responded that the IRS had waived those requirements by processing their claims despite the defects and that the requirements were waivable regulatory conditions. The Claims Court dismissed the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The Claims Court had jurisdiction; the “duly filed” requirement is more akin to a claims-processing rule than a jurisdictional requirement. However, the Browns did not meet that requirement, which derives from statute and cannot be waived by the IRS, nor did the IRS waive the requirement. View "Brown v. United Statesx" on Justia Law

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The issue on appeal in this case was whether taxpayer, Ooma, Inc., a California company, had sufficient contacts or nexus with Oregon to make it subject to local tax. The Oregon Tax Court concluded that Ooma’s contacts and nexus with Oregon were sufficient to satisfy the Due Process and Commerce Clauses, and granted summary judgment to the Department of Revenue. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed the Tax Court. View "Ooma, Inc. v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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Eighteen petitioners (the Taxpayers) appealed a New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) order issued following the New Hampshire Supreme Court's decision in Appeal of Keith R. Mader 2000 Revocable Trust, 173 N.H. 362 (2020). In that decision, the Supreme Court vacated the BTLA’s prior dismissal of the Taxpayers’ property tax abatement appeals and remanded for the BTLA to further consider whether the Taxpayers omitted their personal signatures and certifications on their tax abatement applications to respondent Town of Bartlett (Town), “due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.” On remand, the BTLA found that “based on the facts presented, the Taxpayers [had] not met their burden of proving the omission of their signatures and certifications was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect,” and again dismissed their appeals. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Keith R. Mader 2000 Revocable Trust, et al." on Justia Law

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Rami Khalaf (“taxpayer”) was in the business of buying products for customers in the United Arab Emirates, primarily all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). He sought to claim certain business deductions on his 2013 income tax return. As relevant here, those included travel expenses that taxpayer had incurred on trips to the Emirates, and the cost of a dune buggy that taxpayer had purchased for use as a demonstration model. The Department of Revenue rejected those deductions. The Tax Court agreed with the department on those points, holding that the travel expenses were not deductible, because they were not sufficiently documented, and that the dune buggy was not deductible because it counted as inventory. Taxpayer appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed the Tax Court's judgment. View "Khalaf v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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This appeal challenged the validity of a possessory interest tax imposed by the County of Riverside, California (the county) upon lessees of federally owned land set aside for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (Agua Caliente tribe) or its members. A subset of the more than 450 plaintiffs in this appeal also challenged the validity of voter-approved taxes funding the Desert Water Agency, Coachella Valley Water District, Palm Springs Unified School District, Palo Verde School District, and Desert Community College District. A small minority of the plaintiffs claimed to hold a possessory interest in land set aside for the Colorado River Indian tribe (CRIT), but they argued the challenged taxes were invalid for the same reasons asserted by the other plaintiffs. A trial court upheld the validity of the challenged taxes and plaintiffs’ appeal, arguing the challenged taxes were preempted by federal law. The question of whether the county could impose a possessory interest tax on lessees of land set aside for the Agua Caliente tribe or its members was the subject of repeated litigation in both federal and state courts, and the validity of the county’s possessory interest tax in this context has been repeatedly upheld. During the pendency of this appeal, the Court of Appeal issued its decision in Herpel v. County of Riverside, 45 Cal.App.5th 96 (2020), again upholding the validity of the county’s possessory interest tax under almost identical circumstances as those presented here. Although plaintiffs claim that the Herpel decision was not controlling because it did not consider many of the arguments presented here, the Court concluded the facts and arguments presented in this case did not materially differ from those already considered in Herpel, and plaintiffs did not present any persuasive reason for the Court to depart from that recent decision. View "Albrecht v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law

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Guam’s Department of Revenue concluded that Guerrero owes approximately $3.7 million in unpaid taxes because he did not pay his full tax liability for the tax years 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002 after belatedly filing his returns for these years. The parties dispute when the Department assessed Guerrero’s taxes because the official records are missing, likely due to water, mold, and termite damage at the storage facility. Guam filed tax liens on real property that Guerrero owns with his former spouse in joint tenancy, then filed suit to collect Guerrero’s tax deficiencies through foreclosure. Guerrero argued that the Department cannot prove that it timely assessed his taxes, timely levied the tax liens, nor timely commenced its action, 26 U.S.C. 6501(a), 6502(a)(1). Guam invoked the presumption of regularity based on the Department’s standard procedure and internal documents to establish that Guam acted within the statute of limitations.The district court partially ruled in favor of Guam, on the issues of the presumption of regularity and the timeliness of the Department’s actions. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The presumption of regularity applied and Guerrero failed to rebut it. Guam established the timeliness of its assessment of Guerrero’s unpaid taxes, its filing of the tax lien, and its commencement of this action through the internal documents and testimony from the Department’s employees. View "Government of Guam v. Guerrero" on Justia Law

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Taxpayer Level 3 Communications, LLC (Level 3) challenged the Oregon Tax Court’s determination of the real market value of its tangible and intangible property for the 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 tax years. Level 3 argued that the Tax Court held that the central assessment statutory scheme permitted taxation of the entire enterprise value of the company, contrary to the wording of applicable statutes that permit taxation only of a centrally assessed corporation’s property. According to Level 3, the Tax Court applied that erroneous holding to incorrectly accept the Department of Revenue’s (the department’s) valuations of Level 3’s property for the relevant tax years. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded Level 3 misconstrued the Tax Court’s decision, and the Tax Court did not err by accepting the department’s valuations. Accordingly, the Tax Court’s judgment was affirmed. View "Level 3 Communications, LLC v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law

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The real estate taxes on Brown’s mineral rights were not paid. In 2013, the Hamilton County collector sold the delinquent taxes. Castleman extended the taxes’ redemption date to October 10, 2015, and filed a petition for a tax deed on June 22, 2015. An October 2015 order under Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/22-40(a)) directed the clerk to issue a tax deed to Castleman. Castleman assigned the tax sale certificate to Groome. Brown sold the mineral rights to SI by quitclaim deed. In November 2015, SI moved to vacate the section 22-40(a) order. The trial court dismissed for lack of standing. Meanwhile, Groome recorded a tax deed in February 2016. In June 2017, SI sought a writ of mandamus against the Hamilton County clerk who conceded that the 2016 Groome deed did not comport with the underlying section 22-40(a) order, which directed the deed to be issued to Castleman. The court granted SI’s requests. Castleman and Groome were not parties in the mandamus proceedings.The appellate court found the motion to vacate the section 22-40(a) order "a nullity.” The Hamilton County clerk issued Castleman a “Corrective Tax Deed” in October 2017, in compliance with the original section 22-40(a) order. SI filed a “Section 22-85 Motion to Void Tax Deed” and a “[Section] 2-1401/22-45 Petition to Vacate the October 2015 Order Directing Issuance of Tax Deed.” The appellate court affirmed the dismissal of both counts.The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. A tax deed issued and was recorded within the mandatory time limit. The deed’s failure to name the proper party created a conflict between the deed and the section 22-40(a) order. While timely filing may result in the tax deed becoming “absolutely void,” 35 ILCS 200/22-85, the conflict with the order does not. The court’s mandamus order is properly viewed as reforming and correcting the 2016 tax deed to comport with the section 22-40(a) order. View "In re Application for a Tax Deed" on Justia Law