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New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC v. Ga. Dep't of Revenue

Supreme Court of Georgia

April 16, 2018, Decided

S17G1256.

Opinion

 [*468]  [**389]   Melton, Presiding Justice.

This case revolves around a decision by the Georgia Department of Revenue to deny a request for a tax refund1 filed by New Cingular  [**390]  Wireless PCS, LLC; Chattanooga MSA LP; Georgia RSA No. 3, LP; and Northeastern Georgia RSA Limited Partnership (collectively “AT&T”).2 In New Cingular Wireless PCS v. Ga. Dept. of Revenue, 340 Ga. App. 316 (797 SE2d 190) (2017), the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's dismissal of a suit brought by AT&T to challenge the Department of Revenue's denial of the refund request. Thereafter, we granted certiorari and posed the following question: Whether Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. r. 560-12-1-.25 (2) properly requires that a dealer seeking a sales tax refund must reimburse its customer before applying for a refund from the Department of Revenue. For the reasons set forth below, we find that the answer to this question is “no,” and we find that the Court of Appeals opinion must be vacated in part and reversed in part, and that the case must be remanded with direction.

As set forth in the Court of Appeals opinion, the facts of this case are as follows:

 [***2] New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC; Chattanooga MSA LP; Georgia RSA No. 3, LP; and Northeastern Georgia RSA Limited Partnership (“appellants”) filed suit against the Georgia Department of Revenue and Lynnette T. Riley in her official capacity as commissioner (the “Department”) following the Department's refusal to issue a refund of what the appellants contend were erroneously paid taxes [under OCGA § 48-8-2 (39) (F)]. The Department moved to dismiss the appellants' action, and [the trial court granted] that motion… .

The appellants allege that from [November 1,] 2005 until [September 7,] 2010, they sold wireless Internet access services to Georgia customers, which were exempt from state sales tax under OCGA § 48-8-2. In November 2010, the appellants filed refund claims with the Department for sales tax that they claimed was, until September 2010, erroneously [*469]  charged to Georgia customers on the purchase of wireless Internet access service. The Department officially refused to pay the requested refund claims on March 19, 2015. Accordingly, on April 17, 2015, the appellants filed their complaint to challenge this denial.

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303 Ga. 468 *; 813 S.E.2d 388 **; 2018 Ga. LEXIS 209 ***; 2018 WL 1787276

NEW CINGULAR WIRELESS PCS, LLC et al. v. GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE et al.

Prior History: Certiorari to the Court of Appeals of Georgia — 340 Ga. App. 316.

New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC v. Ga. Dep't of Revenue, 340 Ga. App. 316, 797 S.E.2d 190, 2017 Ga. App. LEXIS 57 (Feb. 21, 2017)

Disposition: Judgment reversed in part and vacated in part, and case remanded with direction.

CORE TERMS

refund, dealer, customers, regulation, taxes, collected, ambiguity, taxpayers, consumer, sales tax, settlement

Civil Procedure, Preliminary Considerations, Justiciability, Standing, Tax Law, State & Local Taxes, Administration & Procedure, Credits, Overassessments & Refunds, Administrative Law, Agency Rulemaking, Rule Application & Interpretation, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Settlements, Settlement Agreements