Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Tax Law
Rankin County v. Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, L.P., et al.
Gulf South Pipeline Company, LLC owned an underground natural gas storage facility in Rankin County, Mississippi. It owned additional properties that ran through thirty-two Mississippi counties. As a public service corporation with property situated in more than one Mississippi county, property belonging to Gulf South was assessed centrally by the Mississippi Department of Revenue rather than by individual county tax assessors. After conducting the central assessment, MDOR apportions the tax revenues among the several counties in which the property is located. A significant amount of the natural gas stored in Gulf South’s Rankin County facility is owned by Gulf South’s customers and, therefore, it is excluded from MDOR’s central assessment. The Rankin County tax assessor requested that Gulf South disclose the volume of natural gas owned by each of its customers. Following Gulf South’s refusal to provide these data, in September 2021 the Rankin County tax assessor gave notice of its intention to assess Gulf South more than sixteen million dollars for approximately four billion cubic feet of natural gas stored by Gulf South but owned by its customers. Gulf South filed suit at the Chancery Court in Hinds County, seeking to enjoin the assessment and seeking a declaratory judgment that MDOR was the exclusive entity with the authority to assess a public service corporation with property located in more than one Mississippi county. On interlocutory appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court was asked to determine whether venue was proper in Hinds County when Rankin County was named as a defendant and MDOR was joined as a necessary party. The Court held that, under the venue provisions of Mississippi Code Section 11-45-17 and the Court’s consistent construction of these statutory provisions as mandatory and controlling, venue was proper only in Rankin County. Therefore, the chancellor erred by denying Rankin County’s motion to transfer venue. View "Rankin County v. Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, L.P., et al." on Justia Law
Board of Supervisors for Lowndes County v. Lowndes County School District
The Board of Supervisors for Lowndes County appealed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Lowndes County School District. The Board argued that the trial court erred in its interpretation of Mississippi Code Section 37-57-107(1) (Rev. 2014) and that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to review the Board’s September 15, 2020 decision to exclude $3,352,0751 from the District’s requested ad valorem tax effort. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that the District appealed the decision of a county board of supervisors. As such, the District’s exclusive remedy was Section 11-51-75. Because the District failed to meet these requirements and because Section 11-51-75 was the District’s exclusive remedy, the chancery court was without jurisdiction to hear this matter and issue a declaratory judgment. Therefore, the trial court’s grant of summary judgment was reversed, and the matter remanded to the chancery court for it to enter an order dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction. View "Board of Supervisors for Lowndes County v. Lowndes County School District" on Justia Law
Saltwater Sportsman Outfitters, LLC v. Mississippi Dept. of Revenue
The taxpayer, Saltwater Sportsman Outfitters, LLC (SSO), was a one-man operation that sold clothing online and at trade shows, conventions, and other events. SSO kept few records of what it had sold or where, though its sole member testified that most of its sales occurred out of state. After an audit, the Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) assessed additional sales tax liability, ultimately settling on about $80,000 based on the disparity between SSO’s wholesale purchases and the sales taxes it had paid in Mississippi and other states. MDOR’s assessment was appealed to the circuit court, which granted summary judgment in favor of MDOR. SSO appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded that SSO’s failure to keep adequate records rendered MDOR’s assessment presumptively correct. The Court found no merit to SSO’s various arguments on appeal, including that the promoters of the events at which SSO sold were the true parties liable for the taxable sales. The Court therefore affirmed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment. View "Saltwater Sportsman Outfitters, LLC v. Mississippi Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law
Mississippi Hub, LLC v. Baldwin
Mississippi Hub, LLC ("MS HUB") operated an underground natural gas storage facility mostly located in Simpson County. In 2007, MS HUB and Simpson County entered into a fee-in-lieu agreement regarding ad valorem taxes on the first phase of the facility. It was agreed that, in exchange for locating the facility in Simpson County, for ten years MS HUB would pay a third of what its taxes would have otherwise been. It was also agreed that the facility was industrial personal property for taxation purposes, that the value of the property would be determined in accordance with Mississippi Code Section 27-35-50 (Supp. 2021), and that economic obsolescence would be considered by the tax assessor at the request of the company. In 2017, MS HUB contacted the Simpson County Tax Assessor regarding market changes in the natural gas storage industry and how those changes affected the value of the MS HUB facility. The assessor ultimately concluded that a reduction of 20 percent for economic obsolescence should be applied for the 2019 tax year. The Simpson County Board of Supervisors, however, assessed the property at $56,527,560—which would correspond to a true value of $376,850,400, the assessed true value without the adjustment for economic obsolescence. MS HUB objected to the assessment at the board’s August 5, 2019 equalization meeting. The board dismissed the objections made by MS HUB without giving a written explanation. MS HUB thereafter filed a “Petition for Declaratory Judgment and, in the alternative, Petition for Appeal from Determination of Ad Valorem Tax Assessment.” Simpson County and its tax assessor, Charles Baldwin, were named as defendants. Simpson County argued that the appeal by MS HUB was untimely and its expert based his opinion on the wrong approach to valuation. The circuit court granted summary judgment, but the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed, finding there were no grounds upon which summary judgment should have been granted. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Mississippi Hub, LLC v. Baldwin" on Justia Law
Mississippi Department of Revenue v. EKB, Inc., et al.
Following a 2020 audit, the Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) issued a $65,957 sales tax assessment against EKB, Inc., a wedding photography business owned and operated by Scott Burton. EKB provided Burton’s photography services and sold the copyrights to the digital still images he creates. Neither activity was subject to sales tax. Because EKB did not engage in taxable sales, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court’s order vacating the MDOR’s sales tax assessment. View "Mississippi Department of Revenue v. EKB, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Mississippi Dept. of Revenue v. SBC Telecom, Inc. et al.
At issue in this appeal was the computation of the broadband credit limits that a taxpayer may use against its franchise-tax and income-tax liabilities. During the tax periods at issue, AT&T Mobility II, LLC, and BellSouth Telecommunications operated telecommunications enterprises and made significant investments in broadband technology developments throughout Mississippi, generating Broadband Investment Credits (Broadband Credits) under Mississippi Code Section 57-87-5. BellSouth Mobile Data, SBC Alloy Holdings, New BellSouth Cannular Holdings, New Cingular Wireless Services, SBC Telecom, and Centennial were all direct or indirect corporate owners of AT&T Mobility II. The taxpayers here each filed a separate franchise-tax return and were included as affiliated group members in the combined corporate income-tax return filed on behalf of the affiliated group. The Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) determined that the broadband credits the taxpayers had claimed had been improperly applied to an amount greater than the credit cap of 50 percent of the taxpayers’ tax liabilities according to Mississippi Code Section 57-87- 5(3) (Rev. 2014). The MDR disallowed portions of the broadband credits claimed by the taxpayers and assessed additional franchise taxes, interest and penalties to the taxpayers separately on several dates between December 22, 2014, and May 20, 2015. The taxpayers argue that each taxpayer is jointly and severally liable for the total combined income-tax liability of the affiliated group, therefore making the income-tax liability of each taxpayer the same as the total combined income-tax liability of the affiliated group. The chancellor granted summary judgment in favor of the taxpayers and ruled that the taxpayer’s tax liabilities under Chapters 7 and 13 of Title 271 of the Mississippi Code was the aggregate of the taxpayer’s separate franchise-tax liability and the total combined income-tax liability of the affiliated group. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor's ruling on the credit-computation issue. "The plain and unambiguous language of Section 57-87-5 clearly limits broadband credits that a taxpayer may take in any given year to 50 percent of the aggregate of the taxpayers’ franchise-tax liability and the total combined income-tax liability of the affiliated group." View "Mississippi Dept. of Revenue v. SBC Telecom, Inc. et al." on Justia Law
Mississippi Dept. of Revenue v. Comcast Cable Communications, LLC
The Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) appealed a chancellor’s entry of summary judgment in favor of Comcast of Georgia/Virginia, Inc., n/k/a Comcast Communications, LLC. In July 2012, the MDOR commenced an audit of Comcast’s Corporate Income and Franchise Tax Returns for 2008, 2009, and 2010. At the conclusion of the audit, the MDOR determined that Comcast owed additional corporate franchise tax. Specifically, the MDOR found that Comcast’s preapportioned capital base and its Mississippi apportionment ratios should have been increased for each applicable year. The increase in Comcast’s capital base was attributable to the MDOR’s disallowance of the holding-company exclusion. The increase in Comcast’s Mississippi apportionment ratios was attributable to MDOR’s inclusion of all of Comcast’s Mississippi destination sales as gross receipts. The application of the audited apportionment ratios to the audited capital base resulted in additional taxable capital apportioned to Mississippi for each year, with a corresponding increase in franchise tax due for each year. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined that because the MDOR’s franchise-tax assessment does not fairly represent the true value of Comcast’s capital in Mississippi, the chancellor’s judgment was correct. View "Mississippi Dept. of Revenue v. Comcast Cable Communications, LLC" on Justia Law
The Williams Companies, Inc. v. Mississippi Department of Revenue
The Mississippi Department of Revenue (Department) conducted an audit of the Mississippi corporate tax returns of The Williams Companies, Inc. (Williams), for the years 2008 through 2010. During the course of the audit, Williams filed amended returns removing the capital of its single-member limited-liability companies (SMLLCs) from its calculation of capital employed in the state, seeking a refund of franchise tax in the amount of $981,419. After the Department’s review of Williams’ records and returns, the Department issued an assessment. The calculation included the capital of Williams’ SMLLCs in Williams’ Mississippi franchise-tax base. This resulted in a refund of $231,641. Williams objected, arguing it should not have been assessed a franchise-tax on capital employed by its Mississippi subsidiaries because of ambiguous language in the Mississippi franchise tax statutes. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the holding of the chancery court that Williams could not exclude the capital of its SMLLCs from its franchise-tax base. View "The Williams Companies, Inc. v. Mississippi Department of Revenue" on Justia Law
HWCC-Tunica, Inc. v. Mississippi Dept. of Revenue
HWCC-Tunica, LLC, and BSLO, LLC, had casino members’ rewards programs that allowed members to earn entries into random computerized drawings to win prizes. In 2014, after recalculating their gross revenue and deducting the costs of prizes from their rewards programs’ drawings, HWCC and BSLO filed individual refund claims for the tax period of October 1, 2011, through August 31, 2014. The Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) denied the refund claims in 2015. HWCC and BSLO appealed, and MDOR and the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC) filed a joint motion for summary judgment, arguing the plain language of Mississippi Code Section 75-76-193 (Rev. 2016) does not allow a casino to deduct the cost of prizes purchased for a rewards program’s drawings because “these promotional giveaways are not the result of ‘a legitimate wager’ as used in [Mississippi Code Section] 75-76-193.” After a hearing on the motion, the chancellor determined that Section 75-76-193 does not allow HWCC and BSLO to deduct the cost of the prizes and that there were no genuine issues of material fact. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the chancellor erred by giving deference to the MDOR’s and the MGC’s interpretations of Code Section 75-76-193. That error notwithstanding, the Supreme Court found the chancellor reached the right conclusion: that no genuine issues of material fact existed. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s grant of summary judgment. View "HWCC-Tunica, Inc. v. Mississippi Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law
Caesars Entertainment, Inc. v. Mississippi Department of Revenue
In 2007, the Mississippi Department of Revenue (the Department) notified Caesars Entertainment, Inc. (Caesars), that an examination concerning its past tax returns, including its 2005 tax return, had been initiated and that the statutes of limitation in Mississippi Code Sections 27-7-49 and 27-13-49 were arrested. The Department concluded its examination on in early 2013, finding no overpayment or underpayment by Caesars. In February 2014, the Mississippi Supreme Court issued a decision that concerned a casino’s ability to use gaming license credits to offset its income tax liability. In response, Caesars filed an amended tax return seeking a refund for the period January 1 to June 13, 2005. The Department denied Caesars’ refund claim on the basis that the time to ask for a refund had expired. Both the Board of Review and Board of Tax Appeals affirmed the Department’s denial. Under Mississippi Code Section 27-77-7 (Rev. 2017), Caesars appealed the Department’s denial to the Chancery Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The chancellor granted the Department’s motion for summary judgment, finding that Caesars’ refund claim was untimely. On appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, Caesars argued Section 27-7-49(2) (Rev. 2017) extended the statute of limitations found in Section 27-7-313 (Rev. 2017), which gave a taxpayer additional time to file a refund claim after an audit and gave the Department additional time to determine a taxpayer’s correct tax liability and to issue a refund regardless of when a refund claim was submitted. The Department argued Section 27-7-49(2) applied only to the Department and its time frame to examine and issue an assessment. After review, the Supreme Court found Caesars' time to file an amended tax refund claim was not tolled or extended, and that the Department had three years to examine a taxpayer's tax liability, absent exceptions under Section 27-7-49. Therefore, the Court affirmed the chancellor's grant of summary judgment to the Department. View "Caesars Entertainment, Inc. v. Mississippi Department of Revenue" on Justia Law