Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Tax Law
Walther v. Carrothers Constr. Co. of Ark.
The City of Russellville created the City Corporation to operate, maintain, and improve the city’s municipal waterworks system. The City Corporation managed a water treatment plant that provided potable drinking water to the residents of Russellville. In 1998, Carrothers Construction Company of Arkansas, LLC (Carrothers) constructed an expansion of the water-treatment plant. Carrothers purchased several items of machinery and equipment for the project. Carrothers installed this machinery and equipment for an extensive three-phase water treatment process at the Russellville plant. In 2004, the auditor for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) conducted an audit of Carrothers’s records pertaining to its activities and purchases in 1999 and 2000 in performing its contractual obligations to expand the Russellville water treatment plant. The auditor determined that Carrothers purchased personal property from out-of-state vendors and that these purchases were subjected to Arkansas’s state and local use taxes, plus interest. Carrothers objected to the assessments, resulting in a lawsuit to challenge the tax assessments, and to demand refund of additional use taxes paid. Carrothers filed a motion for summary judgment asserting that there were no genuine issues of material fact and that, as a matter of law, it qualified for a manufacturing exemption. In 2015, the circuit court granted Carrothers’s motion for summary judgment and ruled that Carrothers was entitled to the manufacturing exemption. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded: "Carrothers acquired materials and constructed a facility to treat and clean the water, but it did not manufacture the water. Thus, Carrothers is not entitled to the manufacturing exemption," and therefore not entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. View "Walther v. Carrothers Constr. Co. of Ark." on Justia Law
Washington County Bd. of Trs.
In 2011, 2012, and 2013, the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas (“University”) submitted applications to the Washington County Tax Assessor seeking immunity from taxation or, alternatively, exemption from taxation for tax years 2010 through 2012. The assessor denied the University’s applications. The Washington County Board of Equalization affirmed. The University paid the assessed taxes under protest and appealed. The county court affirmed. The University appealed and filed a complaint in the circuit court. The Fayetteville School District intervened in the case. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the University, concluding that the University was entitled to sovereign immunity from ad valorem taxation. The school district and the county and its assessor and tax collector appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the University is an instrumentality of the State, and therefore, the property at issue was immune from ad valorem taxation. View "Washington County Bd. of Trs." on Justia Law
Sanford v. Walther
Plaintiffs-taxpayers were indebted to the state for delinquent tax debts. The Department of Finance & Administration filed certificates of indebtness against Plaintiffs with respect to the tax delinquencies and assessed interest on Plaintiffs prior to and after the filing of certificates of indebtedness. Plaintiffs filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendant, in his official capacity as Director of the Department, alleging illegal-exaction claims and due-process violations. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Ark. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and (6), alleging that Appellants had failed to plead facts necessary to establish subject-matter jurisdiction and failed to plead facts on which relief may be granted. The circuit court dismissed with prejudice Appellants’ complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) dismissing Appellants’ illegal-exaction claims where Appellants did not claim that the underlying tax delinquency was illegal; and (2) ruling that Appellants failed to plead facts to support their due-process-violation claims. View "Sanford v. Walther" on Justia Law
Walther v. Weatherford
Weatherford Artificial Lift Systems, Inc. (Weatherford) provided oil-field services that included hydraulic fracturing to the oil-and-gas production industry in the state. The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (ADFA) conducted an excise-tax audit of Weatherford’s purchases and sales for the period of 2006 through 2009. Weatherford paid the entire amount and then brought this lawsuit to recover the amount paid. The circuit court found that “proppants” were “equipment” under Ark. Code Ann. 26-52-402 and thus exempt from taxation. Therefore, the circuit court concluded that Weatherford was entitled to judgment in the amount of $1,356,440 with interest. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that the proppants in this case were equipment. View "Walther v. Weatherford" on Justia Law
Outdoor Cap Co. v. Benton County Treasurer
Outdoor Cap Co., Inc., a headwear company, had been paying ad valorem personal-property taxes in Benton County since 1976. In 2011, Outdoor Cap sought a refund of certain taxes paid in 2008 and 2009 that Outdoor Cap asserted were exempt under the “manufacturer’s exemption” pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. 26-26-1102. Benton County denied the request for a refund. The circuit court also found that Outdoor Cap was not entitled to a refund of any portion of the 2008 and 2009 personal-property taxes it had paid. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) finding that the personal-property tax was not exempt from taxation; (2) determining the personal property was not erroneously assessed; and (3) applying the voluntary payment doctrine. View "Outdoor Cap Co. v. Benton County Treasurer" on Justia Law
Hotels.com LP v. Pine Bluff Advertising & Promotion Comm’n
Several government entities (the class representatives) and all others similarly situated brought a class-action complaint against several online travel companies (OTCs) who marketed hotel rooms in Arkansas and elsewhere via the internet, asserting that the OTCs had failed to collect, or collected and failed to remit, the full amount of gross-receipts taxes imposed by the government entities on hotel accommodations. The circuit court granted the class representatives' motion to certify and certified two classes. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order granting class certification, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in (1) certifying the classes where the class representatives and putative class members had no adequate administrative remedies available to exhaust before filing suit; and (2) finding that the predominance requirement for class actions was satisfied. View "Hotels.com LP v. Pine Bluff Advertising & Promotion Comm'n" on Justia Law
Bd. of Trs. of Univ. of Ark. v. Pulaski County
Pulaski County issued an assessment and taxation of property owned by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). On behalf of UAMS, Appellant (the University) filed a tax-exemption application seeking an exemption from ad valorem property taxes based on sovereign immunity. The county assessor's office and county equalization board denied the request. The county court also denied the exemption. On appeal, the circuit court denied the University's motion for summary judgment and subsequent motion for reconsideration. The Supreme Court dismissed the University's interlocutory appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the University failed to establish an exception to the general rule that the denial of a motion for summary judgment is neither reviewable nor appealable. View "Bd. of Trs. of Univ. of Ark. v. Pulaski County" on Justia Law
Holbrook v. Healthport, Inc.
Appellant requested her medical records from a medical clinic. Pursuant to its contract with Appellant's medical care provider, Healthport, Inc., a private company that fulfills such requests for medical records, obtained and sold Appellant the copies of her requested medical records. Healthport collected sales tax on charges for services rendered in retrieving and copying the medical records. Appellant subsequently filed a class-action complaint against Healthport for violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA), unjust enrichment, and a declaratory judgment that Healthport illegally collected the sales tax. Healthport impleaded the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DF&A) by filing a counterclaim and a third-party complaint seeking declaratory judgment on whether the State's tax statutes require the collection of sales tax on labor and copy charges associated with the production of medical records. The circuit court granted Healthport's and DF&A's motions for summary judgment, finding that sales tax applied to the sale of copies of medical records and that this conclusion rendered Appellant's additional claims moot. The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant's appeal without prejudice for lack of a proper Ark. R. Civ. P. 54(b) certificate, as the circuit court's Rule 54(b) certificate failed to comply with Rule 54(b). View "Holbrook v. Healthport, Inc." on Justia Law
City of Fayetteville v. Fayetteville Sch. Dist. No. 1
In 2010, voters in the Fayetteville School District approved a 2.75 new-debt-service mills that would be a continuing debt service tax until the retirement of proposed bonds to be issued for the purpose of erecting and maintaining new and existing school facilities. The surplus revenues produced by debt service millage would be used for other school purposes. In 2011, certificates issued by the Washington County tax collector resulted in 1.45 mills of that 2.75-mill ad valorem increase being applied to the retirement of redevelopment-district bonds issued in 2005. The School District sought declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. The circuit court found that the assessor's certification was incorrect and that the tax collector improperly applied the 1.45 mills. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the present cause of action was not barred by res judicata; (2) Ark. Code Ann. 14-168-301(18)(B)(i) did not impair the bond-purchase contract and financing of the redevelopment bonds; and (3) the 2.75 expressly pledged the new millage to a bond in accordance with section 14-168-301(18)(B)(i). View "City of Fayetteville v. Fayetteville Sch. Dist. No. 1" on Justia Law
Falcon Cable Media LP v. Ark. Pub. Serv. Comm’n
Appellants in this case were three companies engaged in providing cable-television services to subscribers (collectively, "Charter"). In a consolidated petition for review, Charter challenged the Tax Division of Appellee Arkansas Public Service Commission's ad valorem assessments of its properties for the tax years 2006 through 2009. The Commission upheld the Tax Division's assessments, and the circuit court affirmed. Charter appealed, arguing (1) the assessments were erroneous because they included the valuation of intangible personal property, which it claimed was exempt from taxation, and (2) the assessment of intangible property was illegal because the tax Division failed to promulgate rules that would provide notice of the change to taxpayers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission did not err by assessing the value of Charter's intangible personal property because the relevant statutes require the assessment of a cable-television company's intangible personal property, and the exemption provision exempting the taxation of intangible personal property did not apply; and (2) the Court was precluded from addressing Charter's second issue on appeal. View "Falcon Cable Media LP v. Ark. Pub. Serv. Comm'n" on Justia Law