Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Tax Law
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At issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court in this case was whether NRG Wholesale Generation’s proffered expert used an acceptable method to determine the “true value” of its power plant in computing ad valorem tax. The expert used a mixture of the sales-comparison approach, the income approach, and the cost approach to determine the true value of the facility. Lori Kerr, the tax assessor for Choctaw County, and Choctaw County, Mississippi (collectively, the “County”), contended that Mississippi law mandates a trended historical cost-less-depreciation approach to calculate the true value of industrial personal property. The circuit court found in favor of the County and excluded NRG’s proffered expert testimony. NRG argued the circuit court abused its discretion. In addition, NRG also argued the circuit court erred in denying its motion to change venue because because many of the jurors knew the county officials named as defendants in this case, a fair trial in Choctaw County was impossible. The Supreme Court held the Mississippi Department of Revenue (the “DOR”) regulation controlled and that NRG’s expert applied an unacceptable method to determine true value. Therefore, the circuit court did not err in excluding NRG’s proffered expert testimony. Additionally, because NRG was afforded a fair and impartial jury, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to change venue. View "NRG Wholesale Generation LP v. Kerr" on Justia Law

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Michael and Vickie Kansler moved to Mississippi from New York for Michael’s job and, over the following years, exercised stock options stemming from that employment. The Kanslers took the position that the stock options’ income was taxable only in Mississippi, which reduced their tax burden significantly. New York saw things differently and found a substantial portion of the income taxable by New York. This liability to another state would have entitled the Kanslers to a credit on their Mississippi taxes worth more than $250,000. However, by the time the New York audit was finished, the Mississippi statute of limitations barred the Kanslers from amending their Mississippi returns. They argued the Mississippi statute of limitations unconstitutionally discriminated against interstate commerce. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined Mississippi’s treatment of the statute of limitations for amending tax returns was "unremarkable" and appeared to be shared with many other states. The Kanslers’ dormant Commerce Clause argument, on the other hand, was novel, and depended on an unprecedented and erroneous attempt to apply the “internal consistency test,” intended to evaluate the apportionment of taxes, to the collateral effects of a statute of limitations. The Court held that the challenge was instead governed by the discrimination/Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc. 397 U.S. 137 (1070) balancing test employed by the United States Supreme Court in Bendix Autolite Corp. v. Midwesco Enterprises Inc., 486 U.S. 888 (1988), the only United States Supreme Court case to scrutinize a statute of limitations under the dormant Commerce Clause. The Court affirmed the Mississippi Department of Revenue’s decision to refuse the refund request. View "Kansler v. Mississippi Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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BTH Quitman Hickory, LLC, challenged the amount of the ad valorem taxes assessed by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors by appealing the assessments to circuit court. However, BTH Quitman did not submit a bond with its appeals; therefore, the Board of Supervisors moved to dismiss the appeals. The circuit court found in favor of BTH Quitman, and the Board filed this interlocutory appeal. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court addressed a similar issue in its opinion in Natchez Hospital Co., LLC v. Adams County Board of Supervisors, 238 So. 3d 1162 (Miss. 2018), it reversed the circuit court’s judgment and remanded the case for the circuit court to dismiss BTH Quitman’s case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Board of Supervisors of Clarke County, Mississippi v. BTH Quitman Hickory, LLC" on Justia Law

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SW 98/99, LLC (“SW”), appealed a Pike County Chancery Court order dismissing its complaint with prejudice under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). SW filed objections to the tax assessments for the years 2005 and 2006 for several low-income housing properties, but those objections were denied. SW then filed a complaint at Chancery Court alleging that Pike County, the Pike County Board of Supervisors, and the Pike County Tax Assessor (collectively “the defendants”) had wrongfully and excessively assessed taxes on SW’s properties using an appraisal method not authorized by Section 27-35-50(4)(d). Along with SW’s chancery-court lawsuit, SW also appealed the property-tax assessments to the Pike County Circuit Court. This case and SW’s tax appeals proceeded separately along their own paths until March 2011, when the chancellor entered an order granting the defendants’ motion to stay the proceedings in this case pending final resolution of SW’s circuit-court tax appeals. By 2015, the Pike County Circuit Court granted summary judgment to SW on each of its tax appeals, ordering the defendants to refund SW’s overpayments for the years 2005 through 2012. The defendants moved for reconsideration. While this matter was still pending, SW’s attorney was concurrently involved in an unrelated case in federal district court. The district court contacted SW’s attorney to inquire as to his availability for a trial beginning September 14, 2015, one day before the trial setting in this tax assessment case. Because the circuit court had not yet ruled on the defendants’ motion for reconsideration in SW’s tax appeals, SW’s attorney believed that the chancellor’s stay of proceedings in this case remained in effect, as the circuit-court proceedings were not “finally resolved.” Because of this, SW’s attorney contacted the chancery court to request that the trial date be continued and removed from the trial docket. Although later disputed by the court administrator, SW’s attorney believed at this time that the case had been continued and that the trial setting had been removed from the docket. SW’s attorney then informed counsel for the defendants of the continuance. The defendants did not object to the continuance. The chancellor entered a show-cause order noting that SW had not appeared at its scheduled motions hearing and that neither of the parties had appeared on the scheduled trial date. The order acknowledged that “some telephonic communication was made by a staff member of Counsel to the Court Administrator regarding the prior Order staying this litigation.” The chancellor’s show-cause order concluded that SW’s lawsuit was “stale and in a posture to be dismissed for lack of prosecution inasmuch as Counsel set aside two full trial days on a heavily congested trial docket and failed to appear for trial.” Finding that the chancery court abused its discretion in ruling that SW had failed to prosecute its complaint, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the chancery court’s judgment and remanded this case to the chancery court for further proceedings. View "SW 98/99, LLC v. Pike County, Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The Board of Supervisors of Rankin County appealed a circuit court decision granting Lakeland Income Properties’ summary judgment motion and holding that Lakeland Income Properties was properly before the circuit court and was entitled to an ad valorem tax exemption under Mississippi Code Section 61-3-21 for land rented from the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority. The circuit court also granted a refund of the 2015 ad valorem taxes. Lakeland Income Properties filed a cross-appeal, arguing it was entitled to an ad valorem tax refund under Mississippi Code Section 27-73-7 for the 2015 ad valorem taxes and for the prior three years. Under a de novo standard of review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court in holding that the ad valorem tax exemption sought by Lakeland Income Properties was automatic and self-operating under Mississippi Code Section 61-3-21, and thereby, properly before the circuit court under Mississippi Code Section 11-51-77. Further, the Court affirmed the trial court’s holding that Lakeland Income Properties was entitled to a refund of the 2015 taxes. The Court reversed, however, the trial court’s holding that Lakeland Income Properties was not entitled to a refund for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 tax years, holding that Lakeland Income Properties was entitled to the refund under Mississippi Code Section 27-73-7. View "Rankin County Board of Supervisors v. Lakeland Income Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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Pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 27-35-119 (Rev. 2017), Natchez Hospital Company, LLC, (“Hospital”) filed a Complaint and Petition For Reduction of Assessment on Software. This ad valorem assessment was made by the Adams County Board of Supervisors (“Board”). Prior to appealing to the circuit court, the Hospital paid the ad valorem taxes as assessed. The Board filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that the Hospital had failed to post the necessary appeal bond required by Mississippi Code Section 11-51-77 (Rev. 2012), thus depriving the circuit court of jurisdiction. Following a hearing on the motion, the circuit court determined that the Hospital’s failure to post the bond under Section 11-51-77 deprived the court of jurisdiction to hear the appeal and granted the Board’s motion to dismiss. The Hospital appealed the circuit court’s decision to dismiss the case, asking only whether the bond requirement of Mississippi Code Section 11-51-77 was mandatory to confer jurisdiction on a circuit court to hear an appeal from a decision of a board of supervisors regarding an assessment of taxes. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the Hospital paid the tax, but that was no excuse for not posting the bond to give the trial court jurisdiction to hear its complaint. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of the Hospital’s case. View "Natchez Hospital Company, LLC v. Adams County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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The Board of Supervisors of Tunica County, Mississippi (the Board), ordered an ad valorem tax levy for fiscal year 2014-15 and increased the millage rate from the previous year. After entering the order, the Board advertised a public hearing of the proposed ad valorem tax levy in the Tunica Times. The hearing took place and various taxpayers appeared to voice objections and concerns. Aggrieved by the actions of the Board, one taxpayer, HWCC-Tunica, LLC (HWCC), which owned and operates Hollywood Casino-Tunica, filed a bill of exceptions with the Circuit Court of Tunica County and paid the taxes under protest. The trial court, finding that the failure of the Board to comply with statutory notice and public hearing requirements rendered the tax levy unlawful, ordered a refund. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Tunica County Board of Supervisors v. HWCC-Tunica, LLC" on Justia Law

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After the Mississippi Supreme Court held in "Jones County School District v. Mississippi Department of Revenue," (111 So. 3d 588 (Miss. 2013)), that a school district was not liable for oil and gas severance taxes on royalties derived from oil and gas production on sixteenth-section land, the Chancery Court of Wayne County held that Wayne County School District (WCSD) was owed interest by the Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) on its overpayment of severance taxes at the rate of one percent (1%) per month. The chancellor determined, based on Section 27-65-53 of the Mississippi Code, that the payment should have started on June 5, 2013, ninety days after the Jones County decision. Finding that the chancellor correctly applied the statute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the chancery court. View "Wayne County School District v. Morgan" on Justia Law

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Before January 1, 2015,Mississippi Code Section 27-77-7 required taxpayers wishing to appeal tax assessments affirmed by the Board of Tax Appeals to post surety bonds for half the assessed taxes or pay the taxes under protest. But the Legislature amended the statute to remove that bonding requirement for appeals from assessments imposed after the amendment’s effective date of January 1, 2015. Marlena Robinson failed to post a bond or pay her taxes when she appealed a February 4, 2014, tax assessment, so the chancellor dismissed her appeal. Finding no reversible error in the chancellor’s dismissal, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Robinson v. Morgan" on Justia Law

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In 2003, the Mississippi State Tax Commission (now the Department of Revenue) assessed additional income tax, penalties, and interest in an amount greater than $11.75 million against AT&T based on its income from dividends from non-Mississippi subsidiaries. After exhausting its administrative remedies, AT&T appealed to the Chancery Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, arguing that a portion of Section 27-7-15(4)(i) discriminated against interstate commerce in violation of the negative, or dormant, aspect of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. AT&T argued that the scheme allowed an income tax exemption for dividends received from AT&T’s Mississippi subsidiaries while denying an exemption to similarly situated non-Mississippi subsidiaries. Ultimately, the chancellor agreed and declared a portion of Section 27-7-15(4)(i) as unconstitutional. Having determined that the geographical limitation in Section 27-7-15(4)(i) offended the negative aspect of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, the Mississippi Supreme Court held that portion of it to be unconstitutional and invalid. The phrase “under the provisions of this article” was struck from Section 27-7-15(4)(i) and the severance was be applied to AT&T for the tax years at issue in this case. The judgment of the Chancery Court was affirmed. View "Miss. Dept. of Revenue v. AT&T Corporation" on Justia Law