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Court sides with racinos in tax dispute with state

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A federal bankruptcy court has sided with two Indiana racinos in a dispute over their tax burdens, a ruling that could reduce the total amount they pay into state coffers by as much as $30 million per year.

In his ruling Wednesday in U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware, Judge Brendan Linehan Shannon agreed with Indiana Live’s attorneys that the state is unfairly taxing the Shelbyville racetrack and casino on money it doesn’t get to keep. Hoosier Park, the state’s other racino in Anderson that recently emerged from bankruptcy, joined in the case in August and also will reap the benefit of the ruling.

Indiana Live, which is in the midst of Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, appealed to the court in late July to consider whether the Indiana Department of Revenue is correctly interpreting state tax law.

The racinos have to set aside 15 percent of their revenue in horse-industry trust accounts that go toward purse money and care for older horses. Some of the money also goes toward tobacco cessation and, if it exceeds a state-mandated cap, a portion goes back to the state’s general fund. The racinos have been paying taxes on that portion of their revenue — a policy Indiana Live contends is unfair.

In a 27-page ruling, Shannon argued that Indiana Live is not subject to taxation on that 15 percent because the racino is a “mere conduit” and does not control the money.

“The debtor merely collects the funds and passes them along, and thus they are not included in the debtor’s income,” Shannon wrote. “Because the Graduated Tax is measured by the debtor’s income, the [15 percent] cannot be included in that tax.”

In its initial appeal to the court, Indiana Live attorneys projected that it could save it about $15 million annually in taxes, a figure that would be doubled if applied to both racinos.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision and are gratified that the correct legal result was reached,” David Suess, a Bose, McKinney & Evans attorney representing Indiana Live, wrote in an email.

It’s not clear whether the state will appeal the decision. An Indiana Department of Revenue spokesman said staffers would review the ruling Thursday.
 

This story originally ran in the Oct. 27, 2011, IBJ Daily, a sister publication to Indiana Lawyer.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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