Justia Georgia Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Tax Law
Coe, et al. v. Proskauer Rose, LLP
In 2002, Douglas Coe, Jacqueline Coe, and GFLIRB, LLC (collectively the “Coes”) were involved in the sale of a company in which they held a substantial interest. Their accountants, BDO Seidman, LLP (“BDO”), advised them of a proposed tax strategy in which the Coes could invest in distressed debt from a foreign company in order to offset their tax obligations. In connection with the proposed tax strategy, BDO advised the Coes to obtain a legal opinion from an independent law firm, Proskauer Rose LLP (“Proskauer”). The Coes followed BDO’s advice, obtained a legal opinion from Proskauer, and claimed losses on their tax returns as a result. But in 2005, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) initiated an audit, which ultimately led to a settlement in 2012. After settling with the IRS, the Coes filed suit against Proskauer in December 2015, asserting legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and other claims. After limited discovery on whether the statute of limitation barred the Coes’ claims, the trial court concluded that it did and granted summary judgment in favor of Proskauer, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals erred in determining that the Coes failed, as a matter of law, to exercise reasonable diligence to discover Proskauer’s allegedly fraudulent acts. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Coe, et al. v. Proskauer Rose, LLP" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Legal Ethics, Professional Malpractice & Ethics, Tax Law
Riley v. Georgia Assn. of Club Executives., Inc.
In Case No. S21A0899, Lynnette Riley, the former State Revenue Commissioner, appealed the partial grant of summary judgment in favor of petitioner Georgia Association of Club Executives (“GACE”), contending that the trial court erred by permanently enjoining the enforcement of OCGA 15-21-201(1)(B) – one of the definitions of “adult entertainment establishment” – based on the court’s ruling that the provision was unconstitutionally vague. In Case No. S21X0900, GACE cross-appealed, contending the trial court erred in granting partial summary judgment in Riley’s favor on the remaining claims of GACE’s petition, arguing that OCGA 15-21-209, by imposing an annual assessment on adult entertainment establishments, violated constitutional due process and free speech protections. Although these appeals presented challenges to the constitutionality of state statutes, the Georgia Supreme Court did not address the merits of the appellant’s or the cross-appellant’s claims of error. Instead, the Court vacated the trial court’s summary judgment order and subsequent final judgment because the Court determined GACE’s action against Riley was moot when the trial court ruled. "Because Riley was no longer Revenue Commissioner at the time the trial court entered its summary judgment order and subsequent final judgment, an injunction against her in her individual capacity could not give GACE the relief it seeks. ... A court may not address the constitutionality of the tax at issue absent the presence of a proper defendant in the action." View "Riley v. Georgia Assn. of Club Executives., Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law, Tax Law
Love et al. v. Fulton Cty. Bd. of Tax Assessors et al.
This case arose from a taxpayer grievance concerning whether the Fulton County Board of Tax Assessors (the “Board”) had been diligent in determining that the Atlanta Falcons Stadium Company LLC (“StadCo”) had a usufruct interest in the Mercedez-Benz Stadium that was not subject to ad valorem taxation. In 2017, Albert Love and other Fulton County taxpayers (collectively, Appellants) sued the Board, the individual members of the Board, and the Board’s Chief Appraiser, seeking mandamus and other relief. Since then, the suit was dismissed, appealed to the Court of Appeals, remanded, amended to add claims and intervenors, then dismissed again. At issue in this appeal was whether the trial court properly dismissed Appellants’ fourth amended petition, which asserted claims for mandamus, declaratory and injunctive relief, and a refund of taxes paid. Appellants contended the trial court erred in dismissing the petition, allegedly sua sponte, arguing primarily that the trial court had applied an incorrect standard of review. They also contended the trial court erred in declining to find OCGA 10-9-10 unconstitutional. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal. View "Love et al. v. Fulton Cty. Bd. of Tax Assessors et al." on Justia Law
New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC v. Dept. of Revenue
After approximately ten years of litigation, the Georgia Supreme Court granted a second petition for certiorari in a dispute over the refund of millions of dollars in Georgia sales and use taxes that allegedly violated a federal statute. In 2010, New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC and three other AT&T Mobility subsidiaries (collectively, “AT&T”) filed refund claims with the Georgia Department of Revenue seeking the return of the sales and use taxes that AT&T had collected from its customers and turned over to the Department. In 2015, the Department denied the claims, and AT&T filed a complaint in DeKalb County Superior Court to compel the refunds. In 2016, the trial court dismissed the complaint on grounds: (1) a Georgia regulation required “dealers” like AT&T to return the sums collected from their customers before applying to the Department for a refund of the illegal taxes; (2) AT&T lacked standing to seek refunds of taxes for periods prior to May 5, 2009, the effective date of the General Assembly’s amendment to the refund statutes to allow dealers to seek refunds on behalf of their customers; and (3) AT&T’s claims amounted to a class action barred by the refund statutes. In its first certiorari review, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed that ruling, holding that the regulation, as properly construed, did not require dealers to return the sums collected before applying for a refund. On remand, the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling that AT&T lacked standing to seek refunds for periods prior to the effective date of the 2009 amendments to the refund statutes allowing dealers to seek refunds on behalf of their customers. The issue presented in the second petition for certiorari review was whether plaintiffs lacked standing to file the refund claims. The Supreme Court determined AT&T was statutorily granted representational standing to recover wrongfully paid sums on behalf of and for the benefit of its customers. To the extent, therefore, that the Court of Appeals held that AT&T lacked standing to file a claim on behalf of its customers for any taxes for periods before May 5, 2009, the Court of Appeals’ judgment was erroneous and had to be reversed. View "New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC v. Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law
Heron Lake II Apartments, LP v. Lowndes County Board of Tax
In its second appearance before the Georgia Supreme Court, the dispute between appellee Lowndes County Board of Tax Assessors (“the Board”) and eight partnerships which built and operated affordable housing apartment complexes (“Section 42 properties”) in Lowndes County (collectively, “Appellants”), with the help of federal and state Low Income Housing Tax Credits (“LIHTCs” or “Section 42 Tax Credits”), in connection with which they executed Land Use Restrictive Covenants. The dispute this time turned on the valuation of those tax credits when calculating ad valorem real property taxes. The Supreme Court determined the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction to decide this case, and that LIHTCs did not constitute “actual income” for purposes of OCGA 48-5-2 (3) (B) (vii) (II). Moreover, OCGA 48-5-2 (3) (B) (vii) (I) and (II) did not run afoul of the Georgia Constitution’s taxation uniformity provision. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the trial court. View "Heron Lake II Apartments, LP v. Lowndes County Board of Tax" on Justia Law
Posted in: Real Estate & Property Law, Tax Law, Zoning, Planning & Land Use
City of College Park v. Clayton County et al.
In this case’s previous appearance before the Georgia Supreme Court, the primary issue involved taxation of alcoholic beverages at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Clayton County appealed the trial court’s partial grant of summary judgment to the City of College Park on claims the City was not receiving its statutorily mandated share of taxes collected on alcoholic beverages. When the parties could not resolve their dispute, the City filed a complaint naming as defendants the County and two businesses that operated within the Airport, Mack II, Inc. and General Wholesale Company (the “taxpayer defendants”). The complaint sought an interlocutory and permanent injunction against the County (as well as the taxpayer defendants), and a declaratory judgment as to the City’s and County’s division and collection of alcoholic beverage taxes, as well as the taxpayer defendants’ payment of those taxes. The complaint also asserted claims against the County for an accounting, unjust enrichment, attorney fees, and damages. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the County’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, finding that sovereign immunity does not apply to the City’s claims or the taxpayer defendants’ cross-claims for indemnity and contribution. The court granted the City’s motion for partial summary judgment on the declaratory judgment counts, finding that the Alcoholic Beverage Code, OCGA 3-3-1 et seq., permitted the City to impose alcoholic beverage tax only within its municipal limits and the County to impose such a tax only in the unincorporated areas of the County, that neither could impose and collect alcoholic beverage taxes within the other’s taxing jurisdiction, and that the taxpayer defendants had to submit tax monies only to the entity authorized to collect the funds. Ultimately, the Supreme Court vacated this judgment and remanded the case for consideration of the “threshold question of whether sovereign immunity applies at all in suits between political subdivisions of the same sovereign (like the City and the County).” The Supreme Court disagreed sovereign immunity did not apply to multiple issues raised by this case. The case was remanded for reconsideration. View "City of College Park v. Clayton County et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Civil Procedure, Government & Administrative Law, Tax Law
BellSouth Telecommunications, LLC v. Cobb County et al.
Cobb and Gwinnett Counties, Georgia, sued telephone companies for their failure to collect and remit to the Counties a charge imposed on subscribers to offset the cost of 911 services. The telephone companies raised various defenses to the Counties’ suits, including that the 911 charge was a tax that the Counties were not allowed to collect by a lawsuit like this one. The trial court rejected that argument and allowed the cases to proceed, but the Court of Appeals vacated that aspect of the trial court’s ruling and remanded because further development of the record was needed to determine whether the charge was a tax. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded the charge was indeed a tax regardless of more factual development, and the Counties lacked legal authority to collect that tax in this lawsuit. View "BellSouth Telecommunications, LLC v. Cobb County et al." on Justia Law
Clayton County Bd. of Assessors v. Aldeasa Atlanta Joint Venture
The issue this case presented for the Georgia Supreme COurt's review centered on whether the contract involved in this case between the City of Atlanta and a private business for the lease of retail concession space at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport created a taxable interest subject to ad valorem taxation by Clayton County. The City of Atlanta owned the Airport, which was partially in Clayton County outside the City’s boundaries. Appellee Aldeasa Atlanta Joint Venture entered into the written agreement with the City to lease space on two different concourses at the Airport for the non-exclusive rights to operate two duty free retail stores. Appellant Clayton County Board of Tax Assessors (“County”) issued real property tax assessments to Aldeasa for the 2011 and 2012 tax years on Aldeasa’s purported leasehold improvements on the two parcels involved in the Concessions Agreement and also on Aldeasa’s purported possessory interest in the two parcels. Aldeasa appealed the assessments and paid the tax pending the outcome of the appeal. The trial court found the Concessions Agreement created a usufruct interest in the property, and not an estate in real property; it rejected the County’s assertion that it was legally authorized to impose a property tax on usufructs located at the Airport; and it also rejected the County’s assertion that the Concessions Agreement created a taxable franchise. Accordingly, the trial court granted Aldeasa’s motion for summary judgement and denied the motion filed by the County. The County appealed, asserting four different taxable interests were created by the Concessions Agreement. The Supreme Court disagreed with the State's assertions and affirmed the trial court. View "Clayton County Bd. of Assessors v. Aldeasa Atlanta Joint Venture" on Justia Law
New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC v. Georgia Dept. of Revenue
The Georgia Department of Revenue denied New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC; Chattanooga MSA LP; Georgia RSA No. 3, LP; and Northeastern Georgia RSA Limited Partnership (collectively “AT&T”) a tax refund. The appellants alleged that from November 1, 2005 until September 7, 2010, they sold wireless Internet access services to Georgia customers, which were exempt from state sales tax under OCGA 48-8-2. In November 2010, the appellants filed refund claims with the Department for sales tax that they claimed was, until September 2010, erroneously charged to Georgia customers on the purchase of wireless Internet access service. The Department officially refused to pay the requested refund claims. On April 17, 2015, the appellants filed their complaint to challenge this denial. The Department answered and moved to dismiss for a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and the failure to state a claim, because: (1) appellants did not reimburse the alleged illegally collected sales tax to customers before seeking a refund from the Department, in violation of Department Regulation 560-12-1-.25; (2) the appellants lacked standing to file sales-tax-refund claims on behalf of customers for periods prior to May 5, 2009; and (3) the action was barred by Georgia class-action law. Following a hearing on the motion to dismiss, the trial court granted it on all three grounds. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari review to determine whether Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. R. 560-12-1-.25 (2) properly required a dealer seeking a sales tax refund reimburse its customer before applying for a refund from the Department of Revenue. The Supreme Court determined this was not a requirement, and that the Court of Appeals’ opinion had to be vacated in part and reversed in part, and that the case remanded with direction. View "New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC v. Georgia Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law
Hall County Board of Tax Assessors v. Westrec Properties, Inc.
Appellee-taxpayers Westrec Properties, Inc. (Sunrise Cove & Snug Harbor Marinas), PS Recreational Properties, I. (Holiday Marina), Chattahoochee Parks, Inc. (Aqualand Marina), March First, Inc. (Gainesville Marina), and AMP III – Lazy Days, LLC (Lazy Days Marina) operated marinas on Lake Lanier in Hall County. The marinas were located on shoreline property leased from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. For the 2015 tax year, the Board revised its real property tax assessments to include the assessed value of docks and other improvements as part of the leasehold interest instead of personalty, as in previous years. This increased the assessed value substantially: according to the taxpayers, between 345 and 3200 percent. The taxpayers appealed to the Board of Equalization. After hearings to determine the fair market value of the taxpayers’ property, the Board of Equalization upheld the assessments. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of appellee taxpayers based upon the Board’s failure to schedule a timely settlement conference as required by the 2015 amendment to OCGA 48-5-311 (g) (2), 2015 Ga. Laws p. 1219 et seq. (“the Act”), and the Board appealed. Because the plain language of the statute, as amended by the Act, required the Board to schedule and notice a settlement conference with the taxpayer within 45 days of receipt of a taxpayer’s notice of appeal, and provided that the appeal would terminate in the event the Board elected not to do so, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hall County Board of Tax Assessors v. Westrec Properties, Inc." on Justia Law