Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Summary 2008 WY 139

Summary of Decision issued November 25, 2008

Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Case Name: Bd. Of County Comm., Campbell County, WY v. Rio Tinto Energy America, Inc.

Citation: 2008 WY 139

Docket Number: S-08-0052

Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County, the Honorable Dan R. Price II, Judge.

Representing Appellant Campbell County: Carol Seeger, Deputy Campbell County Attorney, Gillette, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee Rio Tinto Energy America, Inc.: Hadassah M. Reimer of Holland & Hart LLP, Jackson, Wyoming and Patrick R. Day of Holland & Hart LLP, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Facts/Discussion: This was an appeal from a district court’s reversal of a county’s calculation of statutory interest owed upon underpaid taxes. The question to the court: does Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-14-108(c)(i) require counties to offset overpaid taxes against underpaid taxes across tax years in an audit when calculating interest on underpaid taxes.
Rio Tinto operates two coal mines in Campbell County. After an audit covering the tax years 1999, 2000 and 2001, the Wyoming Department of Audit concluded that Rio Tinto had undervalued its production at both the mines for tax years 1999 and 2000 but that it had overvalued production for tax year 2001. The Department of Revenue certified to Campbell County notices of the valuation changes for the three tax years. Campbell County issued tax notices to Rio Tinto for the additional ad valorem taxes and interest due. The County Treasurer did not credit the 2001 overpayment against the 1999 and 2000 underpayments under the theory that the statute contemplated netting overpayments and underpayments during an audit period only between mines for the same tax year and not between tax years.
The County Treasurer would apply the statute by assessing interest on the 1999 underpayment from the due date until paid, would assess interest against the 2000 underpayment form the due date until paid, and would remit to Rio Tinto the 2001 overpayment upon receipt of notice form the Department of Revenue of the overpayment in the form of a rebate check and it would have no effect on the interest accrued during the audit period.
Rio Tinto would apply the statute by assessing interest on the 1999 underpayment from its due date and interest on the 2000 underpayment from its due date until receipt of the notice of the 2001 overpayment at which time it would subtract the overpayment from the total and assess interest only on the balance due form that point.
The Court agreed with the district court’s conclusion that the statute is unambiguous. The unequivocal mandate of the statute is that a net deficiency be computed, and that any offsetting credit be subtracted in determining the net deficiency for computing interest during the audit. This was the only reading of the statute that gave effect to both its requirement for the determination of a net deficiency and for its requirement that any offsetting credit be subtracted if within the cope of the audit period.

Holding: The district court correctly applied the statute to require the Campbell County Treasurer to determine Rio Tinto’s net ad valorem tax deficiency for the audit period by subtracting a 2001 overpayment credit from the gross deficiencies for 1999 and 2000.

Affirmed and remanded to apply the 2001 offsetting overvaluation credit in determining Rio Tinto’s net deficiency.

C.J. Voigt delivered the decision.

Link: http://tinyurl.com/68pb54 .

[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses the "Universal Citation." It was given an "official" citation when it was issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. Please note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you pinpoint cite to a quote, you should cite to this paragraph number rather than to any page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

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