COA: Don’t include sales tax in forfeiture calculation

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that a trial court erred in adding sales tax to the value of goods stolen, which allowed the state to seize the car used by the thief.

Byron Chan stole $97 worth of merchandise from an Indianapolis Menards store. The state filed a complaint seeking forfeiture of the car used by Chan to commit the crime. The sales tax of $7 was added into the complaint, pushing the total over the $100 threshold required to be able to forfeit a vehicle under Indiana Code 34-24-1-1(a)(1)(B).

That statute says a vehicle may be forfeited if it’s used or intended to be used … “if the retail purchase value of that property is $100 or more.” The code doesn’t give a detailed definition of “retail or repurchase value,” but the judges decided it does not include sales tax.

“Both Chan and the State have advanced entirely respectable interpretations of the forfeiture statute. One says ‘retail value’ is the price of the goods without tax, and the other says most people think of value as how much they had to pay when they purchased the goods,” wrote Senior Judge Randall T. Shepard in Byron Chan v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1110-MI-1024.

The judges concluded that “retail or repurchase value” should be read as meaning the price of the goods without the addition of the sales tax due on the transaction.


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