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Tax judge declines to require attorneys represent LLCs in court

August 20, 2012

The Indiana Department of State Revenue asked the Indiana Tax Court to create a rule requiring limited liability companies be represented by attorneys in court, similar to a rule pertaining to corporations, but Judge Martha Wentworth declined to “invent such a rule where one does not currently exist.”

Wireless Advocates LLC appealed the revenue department’s final determination denying its claim for refund of adjusted gross income tax for the 2006 tax year. Thomas Gaisser, a member, vice president and chief financial officer of the company, signed the verified petition for judicial review and notice of appearance filed with the clerk’s office. An attorney appeared on behalf of Wireless Advocates after the department filed its motion to dismiss.

The revenue department wants Wentworth to dismiss the case because Wireless Advocates as a company couldn’t initiate the appeal itself but needed an attorney to file it. Gaisser, as a non-attorney, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by signing and filing the verified petition and notice of appearance, the government argued.

Wentworth declined to create a rule for LLCs similar to that of corporations. She noted that she didn’t need to determine whether Indiana Small Claims Rule 8(C)(3) applied – which requires LLCs be represented by attorneys in matters of more than $1,500 – since neither attorney mentioned the rule. She also pointed out in the footnote that UPL determinations are for the Indiana Supreme Court to decide.

Corporations proceeding pro se are given an opportunity to retain counsel when its opponent contests the party proceeding pro se. A corporation must refuse before dismissing the action, Wentworth noted.

She rejected the government’s argument that Gaisser – over the advisement of the clerk’s office and a certified public accountant to consult with an attorney before appealing – attempted “to game the system and get additional time to hire an attorney.”

Wentworth pointed out Wireless Advocates hired an attorney just nine days after the department filed its motion to dismiss, and its petition reveals nothing to defeat an equitable result. The revenue department will have 30 days to file its answer to the complaint.  

 

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