Court: business license fee not a tax

Rebecca Berfanger
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals today affirmed summary judgment for the city of Hammond, where an attorney who practices law there contested an ordinance that would charge a fee to have a business license. The lawyer claimed the fee was tantamount to a tax.

In the opinion, David Paul Allen v. City of Hammond, 45A03-0708-CV-372, it states that on July 28, 2005, Allen filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against the city to invalidate the ordinance requiring businesses to have a license.

On Sept. 29, 2006, he filed a motion for partial summary judgment. The city responded and moved for summary judgment Nov. 21, 2006. The trial court conducted a hearing June 7, 2007, on the cross-motions for summary judgment. On July 3, 2007, the trial court denied Allen's motion for summary judgment and granted the city's motion for summary judgment. Allen appealed.

If the city was charging an additional tax to business owners, it would not be allowed under Indiana's Home Rule Act, which states the city is not permitted to impose a tax that is "greater than that reasonably related to the administrative cost of exercising a regulatory power," according to Indiana Code 36-1-3-8(a).

The parties agreed about the Home Rule Act but disagreed as to whether the business license fee is a valid regulatory fee and not a tax, and if the fee is greater than that reasonably related to the cost of exercising the regulatory power.

Allen claimed that prior to filing his complaint, he requested access to various public records including committee reports and calculations of the administrative costs associated with regulating business. Allen was unable to obtain these documents because the city did not have such documents.

Allen claimed that the absence of this information prior to the enactment of Ordinance 8590 showed that the $100 fee was a revenue measure and not a valid license fee.

However, in her affidavit, the city controller stated that the 2006 annual budget for the police department was more than $20 million, fire department was almost $15 million, and the budget for code enforcement was $474,000. The business license fees generated $50,300 in 2006.

The city also presented evidence from the license clerk, a person who works in accounts receivable, a police officer, and the chief fire inspector as to the administrative costs associated with the issuance of business licenses.

"We will not compute the difference between administrative costs and the amounts collected to determine the reasonableness of the $100 business license fee," Judge Michael Barnes wrote.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's July 3, 2007, decision to deny Allen's motion for summary judgment and grant the city's motion for summary judgment, concluding that "Allen has not established that ordinance 8590 is invalid," wrote Judge Barnes.

"Because there are no genuine issues of material fact and the city has established it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the trial court properly granted the city's motion for summary judgment and denied Allen's motion for summary judgment. We affirm."

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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.