Articles Posted in Tax Law

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The Vermont Department of Taxes appeals from trial court orders in favor of defendants in consolidated tax-collection cases. Defendants Thomas Tatro, Kenneth Montani, and Tyre Duvernay failed to file personal income tax returns for various years and the Department sent a First Notice of Audit Assessment to each that provided the amount of taxes due along with interest and penalties. These notices were issued more than three years after the date that the tax returns should have been filed. Defendants did not appeal the assessments to the Commissioner pursuant to 32 V.S.A. 5883. The issue before the superior court in each case arose in the context of a collection action brought by the Department. Defendants did not appear or participate in the collection cases or in these appeals. The Department moved for default judgment. The superior court sua sponte raised a statute-of-limitations challenge to the underlying tax assessments. The court concluded that the underlying tax debts were invalid because the Department issued its notices of deficiencies or assessments of penalty or interest to defendants more than three years after defendants’ tax returns were originally due. The Department argued on appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider the validity of the underlying debts in these collection actions, and that, in any event, it erred in concluding that a three-year limitation period applied. The Supreme Court agreed with the Department on both points. The Court therefore reversed and remanded for entry of judgment in the Department’s favor for the years covered in these cases. View "Vermont Department of Taxes v. Montani et al." on Justia Law

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Taxpayer TransCanada Hydro appealed a superior court decision that valued flow easements that taxpayer owned over land in the Town of Newbury at $1,532,211 for property tax purposes. Taxpayer owned and operated the Wilder Dam on the Connecticut River in Hartford, Vermont, downstream from Newbury, and the flow easements gave taxpayer the right to flood land abutting the river in Newbury. Taxpayer argued the valuation was unsupported by the admissible evidence and the court’s reasoning. Finding no reversible error in the superior court’s valuation, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "TransCanada Hydro Northeast, Inc. v. Town of Newbury" on Justia Law

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The City of Rutland appealed a superior court decision that two buildings owned by the Rutland County Parent Child Center (RCPCC) were exempt from property taxation. The City argued neither property met the requirements of the public use tax exemption in 32 V.S.A. 3802(4). RCPCC is one of fifteen parent-child centers in Vermont. Under the statutory definition, a parent-child center is a “community-based organization established for the purpose of providing prevention and early intervention services." The superior court determined on summary judgment that RCPCC’s properties did not qualify for the public school tax exemption but, after a bench trial, decided that RCPCC’s use of the properties in question met the three-prong public use exemption test from American Museum of Fly Fishing, Inc. v. Town of Manchester, 110, 557 A.2d 900 (1989), and that, accordingly, both properties were exempt from property tax assessment. The Vermont Supreme Court found that RCPCC's use of the buildings met all elements of the American Museum of Fly Fishing's test, and affirmed the superior court's judgment. View "Rutland County Parent Child Center, Inc. v. City of Rutland" on Justia Law

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This case concerned the taxable status of Schulmaier Hall, a building owned by the Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA), two-thirds of which VCFA rented to agencies of the State of Vermont (State) during the 2013 and 2014 tax years. The City Assessor of the City of Montpelier (City) found the property nonexempt for those tax years. In response, VCFA brought a motion for declaratory judgment in the trial court, and both parties moved for summary judgment. Granting summary judgment for the City, the court found: (1) that VCFA had failed to exhaust its administrative remedies before moving for declaratory judgment but also (2) that the property was not exempt on the merits. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Vermont College of Fine Arts v. City of Montpelier" on Justia Law

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C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc., a wholesale grocery distributor, disputed sales tax assessed by the Vermont Department of Taxes on the purchase of reusable fiberglass freezer tubs used in the transport of perishable items, as well as the Department’s refusal to refund sales tax paid on diesel fuel used to power refrigeration systems mounted on taxpayer’s tractor trailers. C&S also contended the penalty assessed by the Commissioner of the Department of Taxes, arguing that it is unreasonable. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Department of Taxes. View "C & S Wholesale Grocers, Inc. v. Dept. of Taxes" on Justia Law

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This appeal centered on a timber harvest by landowner Plum Creek Maine Timberlands, LLC in forestland enrolled in the current-use, tax-incentive program. The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR) issued an adverse inspection report, concluding that Plum Creek violated its forest-management plan and failed to comply with minimum acceptable standards during the harvest. Consequently, the Department of Taxes removed the land from the current-use program and levied a tax assessment. Plum Creek appealed, and the superior court reversed those administrative decisions. FPR then appealed, arguing that the superior court failed to give appropriate deference to FPR’s determination of the proper methodology for measuring compliance with the forest-management plan. After review, the Supreme Court reversed the court’s decision, reinstating the adverse-inspection report as upheld by the FPR Commissioner. The case was remanded back to the superior court to consider the questions raised in Plum Creek’s appeal of the PVR Director’s decision removing land from the UVA program and leveling a tax assessment. View "Plum Creek Maine Timberlands, LLC v. Vermont Dept. of Forests, Parks & Rec." on Justia Law

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Taxpayer TransCanada Hydro Northeast, Inc. appealed a superior court order setting the value of its Bellows Falls hydroelectric facility at $130,000,000, with $108,495,400 taxable by the Town of Rockingham TransCanada argued that the superior court erred when it relied on testimony of the Town’s expert witness. After review, the Supreme Court corrected the trial court’s valuation to read $127,412,212, and affirmed. View "TransCanada Hydro Northeast Inc. v. Town of Rockingham" on Justia Law

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Taxpayer C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc. disputed sales tax assessed by the Vermont Department of Taxes on the purchase of reusable fiberglass freezer tubs used in the transport of perishable items, as well as the Department’s refusal to refund sales tax paid on diesel fuel used to power refrigeration systems mounted on taxpayer’s tractor trailers. Taxpayer also contested the penalty assessed by the Commissioner of the Department of Taxes, arguing that it was unreasonable. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Department of Taxes. View "C & S Wholesale Grocers, Inc. v. Dept. of Taxes" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Citibank (South Dakota), N.A. (lender) and Sears, Roebuck and Co. (retailer) appealed a superior court decision affirming the determination of the Vermont Department of Taxes (Department) that the parties, who had partnered to operate a private label credit card program through retailers’ stores, were not entitled to sales tax refunds related to bad debts. The Department denied lender’s refund requests because it was not a registered vendor under Vermont law that remitted the sales tax it sought to recover, and denied retailer’s deductions because it did not incur the bad debt at issue. On appeal, plaintiffs argued that because they acted in combination to facilitate the sales giving rise to the bad debts, they were not barred from obtaining relief. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Citibank (South Dakota), N.A. v. Dept. of Taxes" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of a struggle Vermont towns have had with taxing parcels of land that lie in more than one tax district. Taxpayer owned three units in a condominium community that was in both the Town of Sudbury and its neighbor, Hubbardton. Taxpayer objected to Sudbury’s tax assessment of the portion within its boundaries, arguing that the trial court erred in upholding: (1) the state law through which Sudbury made its tax assessment; (2) Sudbury’s valuation of the portion within its boundaries; and (3) Sudbury’s method of apportioning the tax burden among the owners of the condominium community. Finding no error to any of these issues, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Adams v. Town of Sudbury" on Justia Law