High court rules on issue preclusion in tax case

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In an opinion handed down March 6, the Indiana Supreme Court had to decide whether a previous ruling barred the Indiana Department of Revenue from raising new contentions in support of a different method of allocation of income to the state.

In Miller Brewer Co. v. Indiana Department of Revenue, No. 49S00-0711-TA-553, Miller Brewing Co. argued that because of a previous ruling, Miller Brewing Co. v. Ind. Dept. of State Revenue (Miller I), 831 N.E.2d 859 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2005), the Department of Revenue is bound by that ruling under the doctrine of issue preclusion.

Miller I deals with the company's 1994, 1995, and 1996 Indiana tax returns and ruled Miller was entitled to a refund of the taxes it paid for sales in which the customer picked up its product outside of Indiana or pickup by a carrier because these sales weren't allocable to Indiana.

In the instant case, the same issue is being challenged - whether sales to Indiana customers are allocated to Indiana if the customer arranged for a common carrier to pick up the product at a facility in another state - but for the tax years of 1997-1999. The department denied Miller's request for a refund of those types of sales claiming the state's sales factor was based on a "destination rule" which allowed the state to treat sales of products picked up by common carriers for delivery to Indiana as sales derived from this state. Miller appealed to the Indiana Tax Court claiming that issue preclusions barred the department from denying a refund for those sales. The case is on appeal to the high court solely on the question of issue preclusion.

The Supreme Court has yet to determine whether or to what extent issue preclusion applies in tax cases. The Tax Court had held that issue preclusion is generally not applicable in tax cases, but the high court didn't address the issue in a review of the decision. The Supreme Court held that the department's new arguments in support of its "destination rule" aren't precluded by Miller I.

Even though the issue presented by Miller's claim for a refund for the years of 1997-1999 was identical to the issue in Miller I, appeals from final determinations of the Department of State Revenue are to be heard de novo by the Tax Court, wrote Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard. The Tax Court wasn't bound by the evidence or the issues raised at the administrative level and not barred from considering this new issue, he wrote.

Miller claims this is a new argument, not a new fact, and can't reopen the issue of law already determined between two parties, but the Supreme Court thought that in tax cases, the principle should be relaxed.

"If failure to raise an omitted argument can forever preclude the Department from re-litigating a legal issue, the state is in effect barred by the omission of its agents who generally do not bind the government by a mistake of law," he wrote. "We have also noted the concerns for equity in taxation and for potential competitive effects that perpetuating a legal rule for one taxpayer can produce."

For the purposes of this appeal, the Supreme Court found sufficient that the relevant equities of the interpretations of the statute and regulation weren't presented in Miller I.


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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues