ILNews

Court clarifies where tax disputes belong

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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General jurisdiction courts don't have the authority to consider cases involving tax law or the Department of Local Government Finance, and the Indiana Court of Appeals says it also doesn't have the authority to remand those cases to the Indiana Tax Court.

An appellate panel made its point clear in an opinion on rehearing today in Wayne Township, Marion County, Indiana v. Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, and Martha Womacks, Marion County Auditor, No. 29A05-0611-CV-661. This comes as a clarification and alteration of the court's ruling April 30, which found in favor of the DLGF and Womacks and remanded the case with instructions to transfer back to the Indiana Tax Court.

This appeal stems from Wayne Township suing the state department and the county auditor over the county's attempt to collect a higher share of County Option Income Tax (COIT) from the township, as it's based in part on each unit's maximum permissible property-tax levies. The township challenged that calculation originally in tax court, but it ended up in Hamilton Superior 3 where the judge granted summary judgment in favor of DLGF and Womacks.

In the April decision, the appellate judges questioned whether either the trial or appellate court had subject matter jurisdiction to rule on the merits, noting that there was "no question" this case arose under state tax laws.

However, the DLGF argued that it did not and that the certification to Womacks of the permissible property tax levy wasn't a "final determination" equivalent to exhausting administrative remedies, meaning the trial court and not the tax court had subject matter jurisdiction.

"Whether or not there is a 'final determination' here by the DLGF, this case does not belong in a court of general jurisdiction," the court wrote today. "It might not belong in the Tax Court, either, if there is not a 'final determination.'

Appellate judges go on to write that because the tax court has a greater expertise concerning Indiana tax statutes and could determine differently what is a 'final determination' relating to the courts' jurisdictions, the only recourse is to send this case back to the trial court.

"In other words, the language in our original opinion indicating our belief that there is an appealable, final DLGF determination in this case is dicta, which was not necessary to our holding that the trial court and this court necessarily lacked subject matter jurisdiction," the court wrote. "We reverse the grant of summary judgment in favor of the DLGF and Womacks and remand to the trial court with instructions to dismiss the case."
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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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