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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. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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