Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Tax Law
Steager v. Consol Energy, Inc.
In these consolidated appeals from the business court's orders reversing various Boards of Assessment Appeals and rejecting the West Virginia State Tax Department's valuation of Respondents' gas wells for ad valorem tax purposes the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the business court's judgment, holding that the business court erred in two respects. Specifically, the Court held that the business court (1) did not err in concluding that the Tax Department violated the applicable regulations by improperly imposing a cap on Respondents' operating expense deductions; (2) erred in rejecting the Tax Department's interpretation of the applicable regulations concerning the inclusion of post-production expenses in the calculation of the annual industry average operating expenses; and (3) erred in crafting relief permitting an unlimited percentage deduction for operating expenses in lieu of a monetary average. View "Steager v. Consol Energy, Inc." on Justia Law
Murray Energy Corp. v. Steager
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court affirming the determination of the Board of Equalization and Review that Petitioners Murray Energy Corporation and Consolidation Coal Company's coal interests were properly valued and assessed by Defendants, holding that the circuit court properly concluded that the method of valuing coal properties violated neither the statutory requirement of assessment at "true and actual value" nor the constitutional equality requirements of the West Virginia Constitution and the equal protection provisions of the United States and West Virginia Constitutions. Specifically, the Court held (1) the methodology of valuing Petitioners' coal properties for ad valorem tax valuation purposes, as set forth in West Virginia Code of State Rules 110-1I-1 et seq., does not violate the requirement set forth in W. Va. Code 11-6K-1(a) that natural resources property be assessed based upon its "true and actual value"; and (2) the valuation methodology contained in the Code of State Rules does not violate the equality provision of W. Va. Const. art. X, 1 or the equal protection provisions of the United States and West Virginia Constitutions. View "Murray Energy Corp. v. Steager" on Justia Law
Penn Virginia Operating Co., LLC v. Honorable Phyllis K. Yokum
The Supreme Court reversed a consolidated order of the Circuit Courts of Randolph, Barbour and Upshur Counties pursuant to which the Tax Commissioner’s determination was upheld that Penn Virginia Operating Company’s (Penn) forest properties were not eligible for lower valuation for tax year 2016, holding that Penn was deprived of its right to an administrative appeal of the denial of its application. Penn sought to have its timberland taxed at a lower appraised value subject to a cooperative contract with the State Division of Forestry (Forestry) pursuant to the Division’s Managed Timberland Program. The consolidated order in this case denied relief from the Commissioner’s determination that Penn’s forest properties were not eligible for lower valuation because Penn filed its application with Forestry for certification of its properties as managed timberland sixteen days after the deadline. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded this case with directions to allow Penn to appeal the denial of its application to Forestry’s Director, holding that Penn received incorrect information from Forestry and could have appealed the denial but was advised otherwise. View "Penn Virginia Operating Co., LLC v. Honorable Phyllis K. Yokum" on Justia Law
Ashland Specialty Co., Inc. v. Steager, State Tax Commissioner of West Virginia
The order of the Tax Commissioner of the State of West Virginia penalizing Ashland Specialty Company, Inc. (Ashland) $159,398 for unlawfully selling 12,230 packs of cigarettes in West Virginia that were not approved for sale - a penalty equal to 500 percent of the cigarettes’ retail value - was not an abuse of discretion. The Office of Tax Appeals (OTA) ordered the Commissioner’s penalty reduced by twenty-five percent, finding the Commissioner’s original penalty to be erroneous, unlawful, void, or otherwise invalid. The circuit court reversed the order of the OTA and reinstated the Commissioner’s original penalty. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not simply substitute its own judgment for that of the OTA when it reinstated the Commissioner’s original penalty; (2) the Commissioner’s penalty was not an abuse of the discretion afforded him by W. Va. Code 16-9D-8(a) and need not be cancelled or reduced due to circumstances that allegedly mitigated their unlawful cigarette sales; and (3) the Commissioner’s penalty did not violate the Excessive Fines Clause of the West Virginia Constitution or the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. View "Ashland Specialty Co., Inc. v. Steager, State Tax Commissioner of West Virginia" on Justia Law
Pratt & Whitney Engine Services v. Steager
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court concluding that a large inventory of jet engine repair parts were not exempt from ad valorem property taxation. Petitioner maintained a vast inventory of jet engine repair parts at its West Virginia facility. Petitioner argued that the repair parts were exempt from ad valorem taxation pursuant to the Freeport Amendment contained in the West Virginia Constitution. The county assessor determined that the repair parts were not exempt from ad valorem taxation. The state tax commission upheld the determination. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the inventory of repair parts did not fall within the Freeport Amendment exemption. View "Pratt & Whitney Engine Services v. Steager" on Justia Law
Ancient Energy, Ltd. v. Ferguson
The Supreme Court affirmed the final order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to the sheriff and treasurer of Barbour County and the assessor of Barbour County (collectively, Respondents) and finding that Petitioners were liable for payment of certain property taxes for the years 2011 and 2012. Petitioners had purchased a tax lien on certain mineral interests from the Deputy Commission of Delinquent and Nonentered Lands of Barbour County on September 19, 2011 and secured a deed to the property on January 23, 2012. On appeal, Petitioners argued that they were not liable for the 2011 and 2012 property taxes because they were not owners in possession of the property during those years. Respondents argued that Petitioners were liable for the taxes at issue because their deed specified that they acquired title in 2004. The Supreme Court held that because W. Va. Code 11A-3-62 relates the tax lien purchaser’s title back to the year of the assessment for the property taxes that became delinquent, the circuit court did not err in determining that Petitioners were liable for the 2011 and 2012 property taxes. View "Ancient Energy, Ltd. v. Ferguson" on Justia Law
Matkovich v. CSX Transportation, Inc.
W. Va. Code 11-15A-10a affords taxpayers a credit for sales taxes paid to other states, which offsets the West Virginia Motor Fuel Use Tax (“use tax”) a fuel importer must pay under W. Va. Code 11-15A-13a. After it was assessed a use tax on the fuel it uses in West Virginia, CSX Transportation sought a refund of the sales taxes it had paid on its motor fuel purchases to cities, counties, and localities of other sales pursuant to section 11-15A-10a. The Tax Commissioner rejected the refund request. The Office of Tax Appeals (OTA) granted CSX’s refund request and vacated the assessment, finding that CSX was entitled to a credit under section 11-15A-10a for the sales taxes it paid to other states’ subdivisions on its purchases of motor fuel therein. The circuit court affirmed. The Tax Commissioner appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred by not limiting the credit to sales taxes paid only to other states upon the purchase of a motor fuel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the sales tax credit afforded by section 11-15A-10a applies both to sales taxes paid to other states and to sales taxes paid to the municipalities of other states. View "Matkovich v. CSX Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law
Martin Distributing Co. v. Matkovich
This proceeding consisted of four consolidated appeals. The issue in two of the appeals was whether the alternative-energy infrastructures installed by Petitioners for their businesses met the statutory definition of “qualified alternative fuel vehicle refueling infrastructure” for the purpose of receiving an alternative-fuel infrastructure tax credit. The issue in the other two appeals was whether the alternative-energy infrastructures installed by Petitioners for their residences met the statutory definition of “qualified alternative fuel vehicle home refueling infrastructure” for the purpose of receiving an alternative fuel-infrastructure tax credit. The circuit court affirmed the final orders of the West Virginia Office of Tax Appeals that denied Petitioners’ requests for alternative-fuel infrastructure tax credits under W. Va. Code 11-6d-4(c). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in its judgment. View "Martin Distributing Co. v. Matkovich" on Justia Law
University Park at Evansdale, LLC v. Musick
University Park at Evansdale, LLC (UPE) was the lessor of certain property owned by the West Virginia University Board of Governors commonly known as “University Park.” The Monongalia County Assessor assessed UPE’s leasehold interest in University Park at just over $9 million for the tax year 2015. UPE challenged the assessment, arguing that its leasehold interest was $0 because the leasehold was neither freely assignable nor a bargain lease. The Board of Equalization and Review (BER) affirmed, determining that UPE’s protest presented an issue of taxability, rather than valuation, reviewable only by the Tax Commissioner. The circuit court affirmed, concluding that UPE advanced a challenge that the BER had no jurisdiction to review. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in concluding that UPE’s protest presented an issue of taxability. Remanded. View "University Park at Evansdale, LLC v. Musick" on Justia Law
Matkovich v. Univ. Healthcare Found., Inc.
The State Tax Commissioner and the Berkeley County Assessor denied an ad valorem property tax exemption to University Healthcare Foundation, Inc. for its property known as the Dorothy McCormack Cancer Treatment & Rehabilitation Center. The circuit court overruled the denial, concluding that the healthcare and recreational services provided in the Center were primarily and immediately related to the joint charitable purposes of the Center and the Berkeley Medical Center. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in concluding that the Center was being used exclusively for charitable purposes. View "Matkovich v. Univ. Healthcare Found., Inc." on Justia Law