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. 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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