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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. First comment on this thread is a fitting final comment on this thread, as that the MCBA never answered Duncan's fine question, and now even Eric Holder agrees that the MCBA was in material error as to the facts: "I don't get it" from Duncan December 1, 2014 5:10 PM "The Grand Jury met for 25 days and heard 70 hours of testimony according to this article and they made a decision that no crime occurred. On what basis does the MCBA conclude that their decision was "unjust"? What special knowledge or evidence does the MCBA have that the Grand Jury hearing this matter was unaware of? The system that we as lawyers are sworn to uphold made a decision that there was insufficient proof that officer committed a crime. How can any of us say we know better what was right than the jury that actually heard all of the the evidence in this case."

  2. wow is this a bunch of bs! i know the facts!

  3. MCBA .... time for a new release about your entire membership (or is it just the alter ego) being "saddened and disappointed" in the failure to lynch a police officer protecting himself in the line of duty. But this time against Eric Holder and the Federal Bureau of Investigation: "WASHINGTON — Justice Department lawyers will recommend that no civil rights charges be brought against the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., after an F.B.I. investigation found no evidence to support charges, law enforcement officials said Wednesday." http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/22/us/justice-department-ferguson-civil-rights-darren-wilson.html?ref=us&_r=0

  4. Dr wail asfour lives 3 hours from the hospital,where if he gets an emergency at least he needs three hours,while even if he is on call he should be in a location where it gives him max 10 minutes to be beside the patient,they get paid double on their on call days ,where look how they handle it,so if the death of the patient occurs on weekend and these doctors still repeat same pattern such issue should be raised,they should be closer to the patient.on other hand if all the death occured on the absence of the Dr and the nurses handle it,the nurses should get trained how to function appearntly they not that good,if the Dr lives 3 hours far from the hospital on his call days he should sleep in the hospital

  5. It's a capital offense...one for you Latin scholars..

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