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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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