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Agency erred in taxing certain money

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The Department of State Revenue erred when it concluded certain money collected from customers of a small, rural telecommunications company were subject to Indiana's utility receipts tax, the Indiana Tax Court ruled Thursday.

In Enhanced Telecommunications Corp. v. Indiana Department of State Revenue, No. 49T10-0801-TA-1, Enhanced Telecommunications challenged the imposition of the URT on subscriber line charges (SLC) and federal universal service contribution recoveries (FUSCR) for the 2003, 2004, and 2005 tax years.

As a telecommunications company, Enhanced is subject to the URT and that tax is imposed on the company's entire taxable gross receipts, per Indiana Code. The Tax Court had to decide if the SLCs and FUSCRs are excluded from Enhanced's gross receipts pursuant to I.C. Section 6-2.3-3-4(b) because they are considered fees or surcharges.

Giving those terms their plain meaning because they are not defined by the legislature in the statute, Judge Thomas Fisher concluded the SLCs and FUSCRs are fees or surcharges separate from and in addition to Enhanced's basic monthly service charges, which aren't included in a taxpayer's gross receipts for purposes of the URT.

The Tax Court also determined the distributions Enhanced received through various federal and state subsidy programs aren't subject to the URT. The Department of State Revenue argued they would be subject to the tax because they are settlements pursuant to I.C. Section 6-2.3-3-3, but only legal settlements are considered subject to the tax. The distributions Enhanced received are settlements, but consistent with the definition of "payments, satisfaction, or final adjustments of its accounts," which aren't subject to the tax, wrote the judge.

The department's argument failed that Enhanced received the distributions as a means to recover costs associated with the use and maintenance of its telephone lines, and are directly related to the delivery of utility services because the departments' argument didn't consider I.C. Section 6-2.3-3-10 in its entirety.

"Here, the distributions clearly do not meet the terms of this statute: they are not receipts received for maintenance services provided to a consumer that are directly related to the utility services of that consumer," wrote Judge Fisher. "Rather, the distributions are governmental subsidies that are used to offset the general costs of overall line use and maintenance."

Judge Fisher rejected the department's other arguments as to why the SLCs and FUSCRs should be considered taxable under the URT because the department repeatedly improperly relied on a statutory snippet to supports its position.

The case is remanded to the department for action consistent with the stipulation between Enhanced and the department to the amount of Enhanced's URT overpayment for each of the taxable years at issue if it should prevail in the appeal.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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