Zimmer, state get partial judgments from Tax Court

The Indiana Tax Court has granted summary judgment to both the Indiana Department of Revenue and an in-state manufacturer, holding that the state’s use tax applies to some of the manufacturer’s products that are stored in Indiana, but not to those products used solely for out-of-state work.

In Zimmer, Inc. v. Indiana Department of State Revenue, 49T10-1507-TA-25, Zimmer, Inc., a Warsaw corporation that designs, manufactures and distributes medical products, marketed its products at dozens of out-of-state trade shows and conventions during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 tax years. In preparation for one of the largest conventions, Zimmer hired an Illinois-based exhibit house to annually design and manufacture a new exhibition booth, which incorporated some of the original, repaired, refurbished or modified components of previous exhibition booths.

Each year, Zimmer arranged for some components of its previous exhibition booth to be shipped to the Illinois exhibit house, while other components were kept in an Indiana warehouse. Then, the components would be shipped from the Illinois location and Indiana warehouse to be set up at the out-of-state convention site.

At the conclusion of a convention, all of the components would be returned to Zimmer’s Indiana warehouse for storage. However, any components that were found to have major damage were either shipped to Illinois for immediate repair or set aside in the warehouse for subsequent in-house repair or other modification.

After Zimmer filed a claim seeking a nearly $1.1 million refund in sales tax remitted on the purchase of items used to manufacture its products, the Indiana Department of State Revenue conducted an audit on Zimmer and determined that the company owed $523,890.93 in use tax on its exhibition booth components. The department granted Zimmer’s refund claim in part, offsetting the refunded amount by the use-tax liability.

After the department denied Zimmer’s protest of the use-tax determination, the company appealed to the Indiana Tax Court, and both parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Indiana Tax Court Judge Martha Blood Wentworth granted each of those motions in part on Thursday.

In its appellate argument, the department claimed that Zimmer’s in-state storage of the exhibition booth components subjected it to the use tax “because the type of storage excluded from use tax requires permanent use outside the state, not – as here – continuous revolutions between in-state storage and out-of-state use.”

But Wentworth rejected that argument, writing that “Nowhere in Indiana Code section 6-2.5-3-1(b) is there an express temporal limitation on storage or a prohibition on returning previously stored property to Indiana for continued storage.” Instead, the judge said the statutory exclusion from the tax applies when property is stored in Indiana for subsequent use solely outside of the state, as is the case with Zimmer.

However, Wentworth agreed with the department that the repair of damaged components by an in-house carpenter at Zimmer’s warehouse constituted a taxable use because the designated evidence “does not establish that those repairs were necessary for storage to occur or that the exhibition booth components (or any others) deteriorated during storage.”

Thus, the tax court granted summary judgment to Zimmer on the exhibition components that were stored in Indiana for solely out-of-state use, while granting summary judgment to the Department of Revenue on the components that were repaired in Indiana.


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