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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today

In State ex rel. Gregory F. Zoeller v. Aisin USA Manufacturing, Inc., a 16-page, 3-2 opinion, Justice Sullivan writes:

The Attorney General sought to recover an erroneously issued “tax refund” of approx-imately $1,150,000 from Aisin USA Manufacturing, Inc. (“Aisin”) in Jackson Superior Court. Aisin argued that the case “arises under” Indiana tax law so that exclusive subject matter jurisdiction rests with the Indiana Tax Court. We hold that this case may proceed in Jackson Superior Court. It does not arise under the tax laws because the “refund” was the result of accounting and clerical errors within the Indiana Department of Revenue (“Department”) that were wholly unrelated to any interpretation or application of tax law. * * *

Conclusion. The present case is not one that “arises under” Indiana tax law and therefore is not an original tax appeal over which the Tax Court has exclusive jurisdiction under Indiana Code section 33-26-3-1.15 Consequently, the Jackson Superior Court has subject matter jurisdiction. We reverse the decision of the trial court and remand for proceedings on the merits of the State’s claims.

Shepard, C.J., and David, J., concur.
Rucker, J., dissents with separate opinion in which Dickson, J., concurs.

I respectfully dissent. What is really at stake in this case is that the State apparently acted under the assumption that it had missed a statute of limitations deadline in a tax proceeding. See Appellee’s Br. at 10 (“The State’s real problem here is . . . that the [Department of Revenue] failed timely to pursue its claim under the applicable statute of limitations and then chose not to take final administrative action so as to proceed to Tax Court.” (emphasis omitted)). The State does not contest Aisin’s assertion. Instead it is reasonable to conclude that acting under the assumption that it could obtain no relief in the Tax Court by reason of a statute of limitation, the State attempted an end-run and filed this action in the Superior Court. Both the trial judge and the Court of Appeals concluded that this matter belongs before the Tax Court. Given the lengths to which the majority was required to analyze Aisin’s various tax filings and the resultant repercussions, I agree this is a tax case and would affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 12, 2011 10:15 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions