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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. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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