Why the Franchise Tax Board Is “Fun” to Deal With

Let’s assume you disagree with a decision that the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) makes on your tax return. You go through the FTB appeals process, and get nowhere. California then allows appeals to the Board of Equalization (BOE). Today, let’s look at a recent decision by the BOE in Appeal of Costco Wholesale.

Costco took advantage of California’s Manufacturers’ Investment Credit (MIC) for its in-store bakery and meat departments. Previously, the BOE had rules in Appeal of Save Mart Supermarkets & Subsidiary that supermarkets were eligible for this credit. Costco asked for a refund of taxes paid between 1996 and 2001 because of the MIC. The FTB didn’t like this decision, and elected not to follow it. Costco appealed the FTBs disallowance of the MIC to the BOE. The BOE faced three issues: Whether Costco qualifies for the deduction, whether bakery and meat departments qualify, and whether the BOE has authority to invalidate an FTB regulation.

The easy part of the decision was that Costco is a qualified taxpayer. The BOE followed the Save Mart case and found that Costco’s bakery and meat departments are just as qualified as Save Mart’s to get the MIC. And finally, the BOE believes that the California Legislature has given the BOE the power to invalidate FTB regulations when the BOE determines such regulations are contrary to statutes.

No word yet on whether the FTB will continue to fight such cases.

Coverage: California Enrolled Agent Magazine, January/February 2006 issue (not on the web), CMTA Capitol archive, 10/27/05.

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