Archive for the ‘Supreme Court’ Category

Mr. Hyatt Goes to Washington…Again

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

The saga of Gilbert Hyatt and the Franchise Tax Board, California’s income tax agency, continues. As you may remember, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled last September that the FTB committed fraud against Mr. Hyatt (false representation and intentional infliction of emotional distress), but threw out most of the Mr. Hyatt’s other claims. The FTB filed a Petition for Certiorari in March; it was granted today.

From Chris Smith of the Franchise Tax Board I learned that the Supreme Court will look at two issues: “Whether Nevada may refuse to extend to sister States haled into Nevada courts the same immunities Nevada enjoys in those courts.” As Mr. Smith notes, this relates to monetary damages that Mr. Hyatt received. Second, “Whether Nevada v. Hall, 440 U.S. 410 (1979), which permits a sovereign State to be haled into the courts of another State without its consent, should be overruled.”

The latter will be the key issue for me. In the Nevada trial, the FTB was found to have committed fraud. If Mr. Hyatt had resided in California (instead of Nevada), he would have been powerless to sue the FTB for damages (California law does not allow this). Consider if the FTB were to repeat the same actions against you where you reside; wouldn’t you like to have some recourse against them? Remember what Bill Leonard wrote about this case:

Tax agents rummaged through his trash without warrants, visited business partners and doctors, and shared his Social Security Number and other personal information with the media. This is outrageous behavior and I call on the FTB to rein in their agents. What really galled me is the FTB testified in open court that this level of harassment was only a typical audit. If true, then the stormtroopers are alive and well at the FTB.

Remember, those actions occurred not in California but in Nevada.

This is the second time that the Hyatt case has been to the US Supreme Court. Back in 2003, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that Mr. Hyatt could sue, and that Nevada v. Hall should not be overturned. It will be interesting to see what happens this time. The case will likely be heard this Fall with a decision probably coming in early 2016.

The Real Impact of the Wynne Decision

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Yesterday’s decision in Comptroller of the Treasury of Maryland v Wynne Et Ux generated some reporting in print media. Yet much of what I saw was incorrect in part or in whole.

New York does give full tax credits for individuals with out-of-state income; I do not believe they will be impacted. However, many states do not give credits for local taxes. Joe Kristan highlighted Iowa today; Kentucky is another state that does not currently offer such tax credits. Under Wynne I believe they’ll be required to offer such credits. (I only know about Kentucky because I had a client impacted by this.) Joe noted that Tax Analysts saw that North Carolina and Wisconsin (along with a host of local governments) also don’t offer such credits. That’s where I think the real impact will be.

A Wynne for the Dormant Commerce Clause

Monday, May 18th, 2015

The US Supreme Court today decided Comptroller of Maryland v. Wynne. The Wynnes, Maryland residents, had out of state income duly reported on both their Maryland tax return and on other state tax returns. They wanted a full credit for the non-Maryland taxes paid on their Maryland tax return.

However, the Comptroller of Maryland denied the full credit. Maryland has a system where counties have add-on taxes to the state’s income tax. Maryland allowed the credit for state tax but not the county tax. The Wynnes appealed the decision. They lost at low levels but won in the Maryland Court of Appeals and the Maryland Supreme Court. The Comptroller of Maryland appealed to the US Supreme Court.

The US Supreme Court today held that the dormant commerce clause discrminates against interstate commerce and is unconstitutional:

Maryland’s income tax scheme discriminates against interstate commerce. The “internal consistency” test, which helps courts identify tax schemes that discriminate against interstate commerce, assumes that every State has the same tax structure. Maryland’s income tax scheme fails the internal consistency test because if everyState adopted Maryland’s tax structure, interstate commerce would be taxed at a higher rate than intrastate commerce. Maryland’s taxscheme is inherently discriminatory and operates as a tariff, which is fatal because tariffs are “[t]he paradigmatic example of a law discriminating against interstate commerce.” Petitioner [Comptroller of Maryland] emphasizes that by offeringresidents who earn income in interstate commerce a credit against the “state” portion of the income tax, Maryland actually receives lesstax revenue from residents who earn income from interstate commerce rather than intrastate commerce, but this argument is a red herring. The critical point is that the total tax burden on interstate commerce is higher. [citations omitted]

The easiest fix for Maryland is to offer a full credit for the county tax. The actual fix, though, is up to the Democratic legislature and the Republican governor to decide. Individuals who have been impacted by the discriminatory system may want to file protective claims for refunds if the statute of limitations for them is nearing expiration.

This case also highlights the difficulties facing a taxpayer without deep pockets. Mr. Wynne is an owner of Maxim Healthcare and likely has the funds to fight the matter. In cases like this, it’s rare to win at low levels. Most state boards of tax appeals will rule for the state as long as the matter could possibly be correct.

Inherited IRAs and Bankruptcy Heading to the Supreme Court

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Can creditors go after an inherited IRA in bankruptcy? The Supreme Court will examine that issue next Spring when they hear arguments in Clark v. Rameker. The Supreme Court will resolve a split in the Courts of Appeal (the 7th Circuit ruled that creditors do have access to inherited IRAs while the 5th and 8th Circuits ruled they don’t). The issue is important because as the US population ages many IRAs will end up becoming inherited IRAs.

A decision should be released by the end of June.

Tribal Casino in Michigan Might be Illegal

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Back in 1999, the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (thankfully, they are also known as the Gun Lake Tribe–a much easier mouthful to pronounce) were recognized as an Indian tribe. They asked the Secretary of Interior to acquire property to build a casino near Gun Lake in Wayland Township, Michigan.

But there was a thorn in the side of the proposed casino: David Patchak sued claiming that because the Gun Lake Tribe didn’t legally exist in 1934 the land for the casino couldn’t be acquired. A district court in Michigan threw the case out. However, the Federal Circuit reversed, and the case went up to the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that the Gun Lake Tribe and the US government (the Secretary of the Interior) are wrong, and that the case can go to trial.

This does not mean that Mr. Patchak’s claim will win out and the casino (which is now open) will close tomorrow. Rather, it means that Mr. Patchak’s lawsuit will be heard sometime in the future and depending on the outcome of that lawsuit the casino might be forced to close.

If you are at all interested in Supreme Court decisions, this case is eminently readable. In one week we should learn about the fate of the Affordable Care Act (when the Supreme Court rules on it–aka ObamaCare). This case was decided 8-1 and will likely seem arcane in comparison to that decision.

States Can Give Preferential Treatment to Their Own Muni Bonds

Monday, May 19th, 2008

The Supreme Court ruled today in Dept. of Revenue v. Davis that states can give preferential treatment to their own municipal bonds (over those of other states). Thus, the practice of paying state income tax on out-of-state municipal bonds will continue. The Supreme Court ruling was fractured, with Justice Souter’s opinion, four concurring opinions, and two dissenting opinions.

The main impact of this decision is that municipal bonds will tend to be purchased by individuals who reside in that state, so that they can obtain the largest tax impact. The decision is good news for California, as a decision that would have invalidated preferential treatment would have likely cost the state millions of dollars in additional interest.

Link to previous coverage of this case on Taxable Talk

Tax Professors: Kentucky Will Win

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

As I noted, yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Kentucky Department of Revenue v. Davis. Today, the TaxProf Blog has the views of Professors Gregory Germain of Syracuse University and Bradley Joondeph of the University of Santa Clara. They both believe that Kentucky will prevail.

You can read their opinions here.

Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Davis Case

Monday, November 5th, 2007

The Supreme Court heard arguments in Kentucky Department of Revenue v. Davis today. The Scotusblog has a good discussion of the arguments that were made today.

The case, as I’ve mentioned before, is on whether or not states can favor their own municipal bonds and grant them tax-exempt status while not granting tax-exempt status for out-of-state municipal bonds.

A decision will likely not be announced until early in 2008.

Municipal Bond Interest, California, and the Supreme Court

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

As I mentioned previously, the Supreme Court will hear Department of Revenue v. Davis this Fall. If the Supreme Court rules for the Kentucky Department of Revenue (overturning the Kentucky Court of Appeals), then nothing will change, and states will be able to continue discriminate in favor of their own municipal bond interest for tax deductions. However, if the Court upholds the decision, then states will have to choose between taxing no municipal bond interest and taxing all municipal bond interest.

California allows taxpayers to file protective claims on issues that have not been decided. This is one such issue. I hadn’t advised clients to file such claims yet because the Franchise Tax Board wasn’t ready. Indeed, the FTB denied such claims. If you filed such a claim, and it was denied and the status is final, you must appeal to the State Board of Equalization or you will lose your claim.

The FTB is no longer denying such claims, and is now accepting protective claims. If you are impacted by this issue, and wish to file such a protective claim, you can do so by mailing such claims to:

PO BOX 942867
SACRAMENTO CA 94267-2222

Make sure you note that you are filing a protective claim on the “Department of Revenue v. Davis” decision. Any client who feels that they are impacted by this should contact our office so we can advise them on this issue.

Muni Bonds After “United Haulers”

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

As I mentioned in May, the Supreme Court will be looking at the taxing of municipal bonds later this year (Department of Revenue v. Davis). There’s an interesting article that I found that analyzes what the Supreme Court will likely do; “Muni Bonds and the Commerce Clause After United Haulers.”

The law professors who wrote this article, Ethan Yale and Brian Galle, conclude that the Supreme Court will not overturn the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruling that taxing out-of-state municipal bonds while not taxing in-state municipal bonds is unconstitutional. The article is quite interesting; those with an interest in the case should read it.

Of course there’s a huge caveat—trying to guess what the Supreme Court will do is very difficult.