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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. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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