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  Tax - Legal News


The Supreme Court seemed inclined Monday to side with a retired U.S. marshal who argues West Virginia is discriminating against former federal law enforcement officers like him by giving a more generous tax break to former state law enforcement officers.

James Dawson says West Virginia currently exempts the vast majority of state law enforcement retirees — including police and firefighters — from paying income tax on their retirement benefits. But retired U.S. Marshals Service employees like him don't get that perk. Dawson has to pay income tax on his retirement benefits except for the first $2,000 annually, which is tax free.

Dawson says federal law prohibits West Virginia from taxing his retirement income more heavily than it taxes the retirement income of those who did a similar job working for the state.

During arguments before the Supreme Court on Monday, both conservative and liberal justices seemed more willing to side with Dawson. Justice Neil Gorsuch asked West Virginia's attorney Lindsay See why looking at the text of the federal law wasn't "game over," ending the case in Dawson's favor. And Justice Stephen Breyer listed a number of those getting better tax treatment than Dawson.

"It's not just the state police. It's also the local police. It's everybody in law enforcement almost. And they can get into it and the feds can't. Why isn't that just the end of it?" Breyer said.


Shoppers heading online to purchase holiday gifts will find they're being charged sales tax at some websites where they weren't before. The reason: the Supreme Court.

A June ruling gave states the go-ahead to require more companies to collect sales tax on online purchases. Now, more than two dozen have moved to take advantage of the ruling, many ahead of the busy holiday shopping season.

"Will your shopping bill look any different? ... The answer right now is it depends," said Jason Brewer, a spokesman for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents more than 70 major retailers.

Whether shoppers get charged sales tax on their online purchases comes down to where they live and where they're shopping.

Before the Supreme Court's recent decision , the rule was that businesses selling online had to collect sales tax only in states where they had stores, warehouses or another physical presence. That meant that major retailers such as Apple, Best Buy, Macy's and Target, which have brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, were generally collecting sales tax from online customers. But that wasn't the case for businesses with a big online presence but few physical locations.

Now, states can force out-of-state sellers to collect sales tax if they're doing a fair amount of business in the state. That means retailers such as Overstock.com, home goods company Wayfair and electronics retailer Newegg can be required to collect tax in more states. Those companies were involved in the case before the Supreme Court, but a wide range of businesses from jewelry website Blue Nile to clothing and outdoor company L.L. Bean and electronics retailer B&H Photo-Video are also affected.

Before the Supreme Court's decision, Overstock was collecting sales tax in eight states. Now, it's collecting sales tax nationwide. Jonathan Johnson, a member of Overstock's board of directors, said a small number of customers reached out to ask about the change when it happened but the company now hasn't had a question about it in months. Wayfair, for its part, was collecting sales tax in 25 states before the decision. Now it's collecting sales tax in 36 of the 45 states with a sales tax.

Court: Reds exempt from tax on promotional bobbleheads

  Tax  -   POSTED: 2018/11/21 17:12

Quoting the Cincinnati Reds’ long-time play-by-play announcer, the Ohio Supreme Court declared Tuesday that “this one belongs to the Reds.”

The state’s high court ruled 5-2 that the Major League Baseball franchise is exempt from paying tax on the purchase of bobbleheads and other promotional items the team offers to ticket buyers.

The opinion written by Justice Patrick Fischer warned that the ruling was specific to the case and might not apply for other sports organizations. But the Department of Taxation’s chief legal counsel, Matt Chafin, said the decision essentially shows professional teams how to avoid the “use tax” on promotional items.

Reds spokesman Rob Butcher said the club is “happy with the outcome,” but is still reviewing the opinion.

The department argued the bobbleheads should be taxed because they’re bought by the Reds as giveaways, not sold with tickets. The Reds argued they’re exempt because they resell the items as part of the ticket package and Ohio law exempts companies from paying tax on items they buy for resale.

Fischer, a Cincinnati resident, led off the opinion with a long summary of Ohio’s role in baseball history beginning in 1869, when the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first all-professional team. There are references to Hall of Famers from Ohio including players Cy Young, Mike Schmidt and Barry Larkin, to the 1975-76 “Big Red Machine” champions, and firsts such as Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians becoming the first black American League player and to the first night game being played in Cincinnati.

Then, in explaining the ruling, Fischer wrote that unlike a foul ball or a T-shirt shot into the stands (the Reds use a contraption called “Redzilla” to fire free T-shirts into the crowd) that fans have no expectation of receiving, they buy tickets for games that have been advertised as bobblehead games expecting to get the bobbleheads, which last season included All-Stars Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez.

After quoting Reds’ broadcaster Marty Brennaman’s signature “this one belongs to the Reds,” Fischer as he neared the opinion’s conclusion also quoted Brennaman’s late broadcasting partner, Joe Nuxhall, saying the justices were “rounding third and heading for home.”

Dissenting Justice Mary DeGenaro wrote that the the Reds were escaping sales tax or use tax on promotional items that generally apply to similar purchases. She pointed out that the Reds often limit the promotional items, such as free to the first 30,000 fans.



The Arizona Supreme Court will review a lower court’s ruling that a car-rental tax surcharge imposed in Maricopa County to pay for building a football stadium and other sports and recreational facilities is legal.

The high court announced Tuesday that it would review the Court of Appeals’ March ruling that a constitutional provision on use of transportation money wasn’t intended to cover every tax or fee related in any way to vehicles.

Car-rental companies’ attorneys had argued that the constitutional provision meant the surcharge revenue can be used only to build and maintain roads.

Court of Appeals Judge Diane Johnsen wrote that the provision is triggered by a vehicle’s operation on a public roadway.

Attorney Shawn Aiken responded by saying the tax provision relates to the operation of a car.


The Illinois Supreme Court has upheld a 2012 law that sought to clarify property tax exemptions for charitable hospitals.

The court voted 7-0 in an opinion issued Thursday. It ruled on a law that allows issuing tax exemptions to hospitals when the value of the "charity care" or "free or discounted services" they provide exceed its estimated tax liability.

Constance Oswald argued in her lawsuit that the law requires issuing an exemption regardless of whether the constitutional requirements are met. The court found that the language of the law merely allows allowing an exemption in warranted cases.

Illinois Health and Hospital Association spokesman Danny Chun says the law has cleared up previous confusion and ensured financially stretched hospitals can serve their communities.



The Supreme Court says states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax. The 5-4 ruling Thursday is a win for states, who said they were losing out on billions of dollars annually under two decades-old Supreme Court decisions that impacted online sales tax collection.

The high court ruled Thursday to overturn those decisions. They had resulted in some companies not collecting sales tax on every online purchase. The cases the court overturned said that if a business was shipping a product to a state where it didn't have a physical presence such as a warehouse or office, the business didn't have to collect the state's sales tax. Customers were generally supposed to pay the tax to the state themselves if they don't get charged it, but the vast majority didn't. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the previous decisions were flawed.

"Each year the physical presence rule becomes further removed from economic reality and results in significant revenue losses to the States. These critiques underscore that the physical presence rule, both as first formulated and as applied today, is an incorrect interpretation of the Commerce Clause," he wrote.

In addition to being a win for states, the ruling is also a win for large retailers, who argued the physical presence rule was unfair. Retailers including Apple, Macy's, Target and Walmart, which have brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, generally collect sales tax from their customers who buy online. That's because they typically have a physical store in whatever state the purchase is being shipped to. Amazon.com, with its network of warehouses, also collects sales tax in every state that charges it, though third party sellers who use the site to sell goods don't have to.

But sellers that only have a physical presence in a single state or a few states could avoid charging customers sales tax when they're shipping to addresses outside those states. Online sellers that don't charge sales tax on goods shipped to every state range from jewelry website Blue Nile to pet products site Chewy.com to clothing retailer L.L. Bean. Sellers who use eBay and Etsy, which provide platforms for smaller sellers, also aren't required to collect sales tax nationwide.


Massachusetts' highest court on Monday struck down a proposed "millionaire tax" ballot question, blocking it from going before state voters in November and ending advocates' hopes for generating some $2 billion in additional revenue for education and transportation.

The Supreme Judicial Court, in a 5-2 ruling, said the initiative petition should not have been certified by Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey because it violated the "relatedness" clause of the state constitution that prohibits ballot questions from mingling unrelated subjects — in this case, taxing and spending.

The proposed constitutional amendment — referred to by its proponents as the "Fair Share Amendment," would have imposed a surtax of 4 percent on any portion of an individual's annual income that exceeds $1 million. The measure called for revenues from the tax to be earmarked for transportation and education.

Writing for the majority, Associate Justice Frank Gaziano said a voter who supported the surtax but opposed earmarking the funds for a specific purpose would be left "in the untenable position of choosing which issue to support and which must be disregarded."

The justices offered hypothetical examples of voters who might support spending on one priority but not the other, such as a subway commuter with no school-age children.

The measure had been poised to reach voters in November after receiving sufficient support from the Legislature in successive two-year sessions. But several business groups, including the Massachusetts High Technology Council and Associated Industries of Massachusetts, sued to block it.

The court's ruling was a devastating blow for Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of labor unions, community and religious organizations that collected more than 150,000 signatures in support of the millionaire tax.



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