Because the records ESPN Productions Inc. seeks to keep from public disclosure in its appeal of taxes assessed against it contain trade secrets, the Indiana Tax Court on Thursday granted the company’s request to put most of records at issue under seal.
ESPN Productions is owned by ESPN Inc. and charges its parent company a production service fee. For the tax years ending in 2007 through 2010 it filed Indiana corporate income tax returns. But in 2012, the Department of State Revenue claimed that ESPN Productions owed additional taxes for those years.
ESPN Productions appealed in 2013, and in 2015 it sought a court order that designated evidence in support of its motion for summary judgment be put under seal. Those records are its Indiana Adjusted Gross Income Tax Returns filed for the years at issue, a copy of a production services agreement with ESPN, two cable television license agreements, and a copy of a document it refers to as its supplement to protest.
In ESPN Productions, Inc. v. Indiana Department of State Revenue,
49T10-1312-TA-76, Judge Martha Wentworth granted ESPN Production’s request, except as it relates to the company’s supplement to protest. The tax returns are allowed to be sealed under I.C. 5-14-3-4 and Indiana Administrative Rule 9. She held because the production services agreement and cable television licensing agreements contain trade secrets, those should also be mandatorily exempt from public disclosure under the Access to Public Records Act.
She denied the request to put the supplement to protest under seal because it does not contain any business model or pricing information as ESPN Productions claimed; rather, it states the general purpose of the cable television license agreements themselves, which is information that is already readily ascertainable from the public documents filed in the case.