ILNews

Stable owner liable for unemployment tax, appeals court affirms

Dave Stafford
September 23, 2013
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The owner of a Zionsville horse stable lost her appeal of a determination that she owed unemployment insurance tax for employees because they performed non-agricultural work.

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed the judgment of liability made by Aija Funderburk, an administrative law judge for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, who ordered the owner of Boone Ridge Stables to pay back years’ unemployment insurance taxes plus interest and penalties.

A terminated three-year stable employee filed for unemployment benefits in July 2011 and the department filed a “block claim investigation” after it found the stable reported no wages for the worker. An audit ensued, finding the stable paid more than $70,000 in wages from 2008-2011.

Stable owner C. Subah Packer argued that employees were exempt because they provided “agricultural labor,” but the department differed, and the COA agreed in C. Subah Packer v. The Indiana Department of Workforce Development, 93A02-1301-EX-83.

Packer agued the workers cared for “agricultural commodities,” and thus the stable is exempt from tax liabilities and providing unemployment insurance benefits. She argued none of the employees gave riding lessons, for instance, which would not qualify as agricultural labor.

“We have not previously construed the definition of ‘agricultural commodities’ in the unemployment compensation context,” Judge Edward Najam wrote for the court, which found guidance in Day v. Ryan, 560 N.E.2d 77, 81 (Ind. Ct. App. 1990). That decision followed the line of established caselaw recognizing a fundamental distinction between an agricultural pursuit and a separately organized, independent productive activity.

“Packer operated a stable where she raised, managed, and conducted husbandry services for horses. Her employees fed and cared for the horses, turned them out to pasture, helped maintain the farm buildings and equipment, and performed husbandry services. In general, such activity is agricultural labor,” Najam wrote. “But the employees also cared for boarded horses and horses used for riding lessons in addition to tending Packer’s horses. The boarding of horses is not agricultural but, instead, is a separately organized, independent productive activity.”

Because the stables didn’t keep adequate employment records, the department couldn’t determine how much of the work might have been agricultural and how much might not have been.

"Thus, [Funderburk] could not make an evidence-based determination of which employees and how many hours were attributable to agricultural and non-agricultural labor, and the Department could not calculate the amount of unemployment compensation taxes owed solely for non-agricultural labor,” Najam wrote for the panel that included judges Elaine Brown and Paul Mathias. The opinion affirms that Packer must pay unemployment compensation taxes on the entire amount of employee pay for the audit years.

“To conclude otherwise would have allowed Packer to escape liability for taxes owed for non-agricultural labor. We cannot say that the ... factual determination is arbitrary, unreasonable, against the evidence, or contrary to law. As such, we affirm the ... determination that Packer is liable for unemployment insurance taxes for the audited years.”

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  1. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  2. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  3. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  4. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  5. I totally agree with John Smith.

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