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Gambler scores partial victory before Tax Court

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The Indiana Tax Court Thursday granted an alleged professional gambler’s motion to compel the Department of State Revenue to comply with nearly all of his discovery requests in his quest to deduct certain business expenses.

The department audited Nick Popovich in 2007 for the 2002 through 2004 tax years, explaining that because he was not a professional gambler, he wasn’t entitled to deduct gambling losses as business expenses and other certain business expense deductions.

In his appeal to the Tax Court, Nick Popovich v. Indiana Department of State Revenue, 49T10-1010-TA-53, Popovich served the department with discovery requests. At issue are 53 of his discovery requests that the department sought to protect from disclosure through a protective order. The DOR claimed the information was confidential under I.C. 6-8.1-7-1 or protected by the work-product, attorney-client and deliberative process privileges.

The department argued that Popovich’s requests fail to address the sole issue in this case – whether Popovich was a professional gambler. Popovich, however, claimed that the information and documents he seeks are discoverable because all of the department’s objections to disclosure lack merit. The Tax Court agreed with Popovich with one exception – interrogatory No. 4. It seeks the internal documentation and communications between DOR employees and legal counsel. Judge Martha Wentworth sustained the department’s objections to disclosing this under the work-product and attorney-client privileges only to the extent that the DOR identifies the communications with enough specificity for the parties to determine that they are indeed work-product or attorney-client communications.

Wentworth found that the work-product and attorney-client privileges don’t preclude disclosure in response to the rest of Popovich’s discovery requests. She also rejected the DOR’s argument that Indiana recognizes a deliberative process privilege applicable to the discovery rules. She said it’s up to the Legislature to elevate public policy regarding the protection of deliberative processes into a privilege.

The department must fully respond to his discovery requests within 45 days.

In a separate order in the same matter, Wentworth denied Popovich’s second motion to compel filed after the DOR did not bring original documents to a deposition.

Indiana Trial Rule 26(F) requires a party seeking to compel discovery to attempt to resolve the discovery dispute before seeking court intervention and to document its attempts in the motion. Popovich did not provide the required showing in his motion to meet the rule’s requirements, Wentworth found. He did not make a reasonable effort to resolve the discovery dispute before filing this motion to compel.
 

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