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Monday, August 25, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today, a reversal by the new Chief Justice

In Indiana Department of State Revenue v. Caterpillar, Inc., an 11-page, 5-0 opinion, Chief Justice Rush writes:

Indiana’s tax statutes expressly authorize corporate taxpayers to deduct some foreign source dividend income when calculating Indiana adjusted gross income. But Caterpillar attempted to use that same deduction to increase its Indiana net operating losses available for carryover to other tax years. We hold that the plain meaning of the Indiana tax statutes disallows Caterpillar’s use of the foreign source dividend deduction outside of its legislatively authorized context. We also hold that Caterpillar has not met its burden to show that disallowing the deduction discriminates against foreign commerce under the Foreign Commerce Clause of the Federal Constitution. Accordingly, we reverse the Tax Court’s decision and grant summary judgment for the Indiana Department of State Revenue. * * *

At its core, the resolution of this case is straightforward: The Indiana NOL statute does not reference or incorporate the foreign source dividend deduction, and the Tax Court clearly erred in holding that it did. The Department correctly recognized that the Indiana tax statutes did not authorize Caterpillar to include foreign source dividend income in its Indiana NOL calculation. We also conclude that Caterpillar has not met its burden to show the Indiana tax statutes unconstitutionally discriminate against foreign commerce. * * *

In most cases, we exercise “cautious deference” to the Tax Court’s opinion because we recognize its unique expertise in Indiana tax law. Miller Brewing Co., 975 N.E.2d at 803. But when the plain meaning of the statute is unambiguous, we are in no worse position than the Tax Court to apply the statute as written, especially when the Tax Court’s conclusion interpolates “extraneous evidence of legislative intent,” id., as it did here. Thus, we hold that the Tax Court clearly erred when it adopted a false symmetry between Indiana AGI and Indiana NOLs, and we decline Caterpillar’s effort to apply the foreign source dividend deduction to its NOL caclulations. * * *

Caterpillar may not deduct foreign source dividends when calculating Indiana NOLs—a conclusion compelled by the plain meaning of the Indiana tax statutes. And Caterpillar has not carried its burden of proving that this conclusion violates the Foreign Commerce Clause. Therefore, we reverse the Tax Court’s judgment and remand with instructions to grant summary judgment to the Department and deny summary judgment to Caterpillar.

Here is the March 28, 2013 Tax Court opinion. Review was granted by the Supreme court on Feb. 7, 2014, following oral argument on Feb. 6th.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 25, 2014 12:23 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions