Articles Posted in Tax Law

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For purposes of applying the municipal or public purposes tax exemption contained in Fla. Const. art. VII, section 3(a), a public marina owned and operated by a municipality is a traditional municipal function that carries a presumption of tax-exempt status. The owners of a private marina in Fort Pierce filed a complaint challenging the tax-exempt status of the Fort Pierce City Marina and the Fisherman’s Wharf Marina. Plaintiffs’ amended complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief on the basis that the property appraiser unconstitutionally granted ad valorem tax exemptions to the two marina properties owned and operated by the City of Fort Pierce and the Fort Pierce Redevelopment Agency (the City). The trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiffs, determining that neither of the City marinas qualified for the constitutional tax exemption. The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that municipal marinas are traditionally considered exempt from taxation. The Supreme Court approved the decision below, holding that Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden to rebut the presumption that the municipally-owned properties that were used exclusively by the City to provide traditional municipal functions were constitutionally exempt from ad valorem taxation. View "Treasure Coast Marina, LC v. City of Fort Pierce" on Justia Law

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The Communications Services Tax (CST) imposed a 6.8 percent tax rate on cable service and a 10.8 percent tax rate on satellite service. DIRECTV, Inc. and Echostar, LLC filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment holding the sales tax provision in the CST unconstitutional, a permanent injunction against enforcement of the provision, and a refund of taxes paid pursuant to the provision. The trial court found that the CST does not violate the Commerce Clause. The First District Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the CST is invalid because it favors communications that use local infrastructure and therefore has a discriminatory effect on interstate commerce. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the CST is not discriminatory in either its purpose or its effect and therefore does not violate the dormant Commerce Clause. View "Florida Department of Revenue v. DirecTV, Inc." on Justia Law

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Relying on the reputations of Defendants, Plaintiffs, the owners of one of South Florida’s largest general contractors, initiated a custom adjustable rate debt structure (CARDS) transaction. The IRS later issued notices of deficiency disallowing tax deductions based on the CARDS transaction on Plaintiffs’ federal tax returns on the ground that the CARDS transaction lacked economic substance. The tax court upheld the notice of deficiency. Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed a diversity action against Defendants in a federal district court alleging several tax law claims. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the statute of limitations on Plaintiffs’ claims had run. Plaintiffs appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit certified a question of state law to the Supreme Court regarding whether Plaintiffs’ claims accrued at the time the IRS issued the notice of deficiency or when Plaintiffs’ underlying dispute with the IRS was concluded or final. The Supreme Court held that Taxpayers’ claims accrued at the time their action in the tax court became final, and that action became final ninety days after the tax court’s judgment, at the expiration of the time period for an appeal of that judgment. View "Kipnis v. Bayerische Hypo-Und Vereinsbank" on Justia Law

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The First District held that Panama Commons’ right to due process was violated by applying the 2013 repeal of the ad valorem tax exemption under section 196.1978, Florida Statutes (2012), to the 2013 tax year. The court reversed and remanded, holding that applying the repeal to Panama Commons for the 2013 tax year does not violate due process. In this case, Panama Commons’ right to the tax exemption under section 196.1978 had not vested before the Legislature repealed the exemption for limited partnerships in 2013. View "Sowell v. Panama Commons L.P." on Justia Law

Posted in: Tax Law

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This case stemmed from the Department's issuance of a proposed tax assessment on American Business, for taxes and interest on the company’s internet sales transactions. The tax assessment was issued by the Department to American Business pursuant to section 212.05(1)(l) of the Florida Statutes. The court concluded that section 212.05(l) does not violate the dormant Commerce Clause as applied to American Business’s internet sales of flowers, gift baskets, and other tangible personal property where all four prongs of the Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady test have been satisfied. The court further concluded that no due process violation is present on the facts of this case where American Business’s activities have a substantial nexus to Florida. Accordingly, the court quashed the Fourth District's decision to the extent that it holds that the assessment of sales tax on sales of flowers, gift baskets, and other items of tangible personal property ordered by out-of-state customers for out-of-state delivery violates the dormant Commerce Clause. View "Florida Dept. of Revenue v. American Business USA Corp." on Justia Law

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The Florida Development Finance Corporation (FDFC), a corporate and political entity, filed a complaint in the circuit court of the Second Judicial Circuit in Leon County seeking to determine the validity of a series of bonds proposed to be issued to finance qualifying improvements pursuant to the Property Assessed Clean Energy Act (PACE Act). After a hearing, the circuit court validated the PACE bonds. The Florida Bankers Association (FBA) and Robert Reynolds, a property owner in Leon County, appealed the bond validation. The Supreme court (1) dismissed the appeal brought by FBA, as FBA had no standing to appear in this appeal; and (2) affirmed the circuit court’s amended final judgment validating the FDFC special assessment revenue bonds but remanded with instructions to require FDFC to amend the bond documents as set forth in this opinion. View "Fla. Bankers Ass’n v. Fla. Dev. Fin. Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Tax Law

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This case was before the Supreme Court on appeal from a circuit court judgment validating a proposed bond issue. The Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision to validate the bonds but remanded with instructions for the circuit court to require Leon County Energy Improvement District to amend the financing agreement to remove all references to judicial foreclosure. The financing agreement was virtually identical to the financing agreement in Thomas v. Clean Energy Coastal Corridor, also decided today. The Court wrote further in order to recede from its decision in Meyers v. City of St. Cloud, in which the Court concluded that citizens and taxpayers who failed to appear in the bond validation proceedings in circuit court nonetheless had the right to appeal from the trial court’s decision. The Court held that the conclusion reached by Meyers cannot be sustained and that citizens and taxpayers are not entitled to appeal without having formally participated in the trial proceedings. View "Reynolds v. Leon County Energy Improvement Dist." on Justia Law

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Clean Energy Coastal Corridor, whose purpose is to finance through the issuance of bonds certain qualifying improvements to real property as authorized by the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Act, adopted a bond resolution authorizing the issuance of revenue bonds in an amount not to exceed $500,000,000 for the purpose of financing qualifying improvements. Clean Energy filed a complaint to validate those bonds. The only argument relevant to this appeal regarding Clean Energy’s authority to issue the bonds was that the bonds could not be validated because the financing agreement to be signed by Clean Energy and property owners participating in the PACE Program purported to authorize a remedy for the collection of unpaid assessments that was not authorized by Florida law. After a show-cause hearing, the circuit court validated the proposed bond issue. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s final judgment validating the bonds but remanded for the circuit court to require Clean Energy to amend the financing agreement, as the financing agreement’s references to judicial foreclosure were inconsistent with its requirement that the collection of non-ad valorem assessments must be accomplished pursuant to Fla. Stat. 197’s uniform method. View "Thomas v. Clean Energy Coastal Corridor" on Justia Law

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Certain counties filed a declaratory action against online travel companies (OTCs) arguing, inter alia, that the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) applies to the difference between the total monetary amounts the OTCs’ customers pay to them and the lesser monetary amount the OTCs remit to the hotels (a difference known as the “markup charges.”) The circuit court granted summary judgment for the OTCs, concluding (1) the TDT does not clearly impose any tax on the amount the OTCs charge their customers by way of markup charges; and (2) the OTCs, not the customers, are the entities who exercise the privilege that is taxable under the TDT. The First District Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the privilege being exercised for purposes of the TDT is renting rooms to tourists, not the other way around. The Supreme Court approved the First District’s Decision by answering the certified question to clarify that the “local option tourist development act” imposes a tax only on the amount the property owner receives for the rental of transient accommodations and not on the total amount of consideration an online travel company receives from tourists who reserve accommodations using the online travel company’s website. View "Alachua County v. Expedia, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Tax Law

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In 2013, the City of Cape Coral issued a special assessment to provide fire protection services. The City passed an ordinance levying a special assessment against all real property in the City, both developed and undeveloped. The City then filed a complaint to validate the debt. Eight property owners appeared in opposition to the special assessment. After a show cause hearing, the trial court entered its final judgment of validation. The Supreme Court affirmed the order of validation, holding that the City properly exercised its authority to issue a special assessment to fund fire protection services and that the assessment did not violate existing law. View "Morris v. City of Cape Coral" on Justia Law