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Crown Diversified Holdings, LLC v. St. Louis County

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

December 23, 2014

CROWN DIVERSIFIED HOLDINGS, LLC, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI, ASSESSOR JAKE ZIMMERMAN AND STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI, Defendants/Respondents

Appeal from the St. Louis County Circuit Court. Honorable Michael D. Burton.

FOR APPELLANT: Thomas L. Caradonna, Lewis Rice & Fingersh, St. Louis, Missouri; Jacqueline K. Graves, St. Louis, Missouri.

FOR RESPONDENT: Emily A. Dodge, Assistant Attorney General, Jefferson City, Missouri; Paula J. Lemerman, Clayton, Missouri; Priscilla F. Gunn, Clayton, Missouri.

Philip M. Hess, Judge. Sherri B. Sullivan, P.J. and Mary K. Hoff, J. concur.

OPINION

Page 227

Philip M. Hess, Judge

Introduction

In this dispute involving unpaid personal property taxes for tax years 2009 through 2011, Crown Diversified Holdings, LLC (Taxpayer) seeks a declaration that the State Tax Commission (STC) is required to apportion personal property taxes levied on its commercial aircraft, injunctive relief prohibiting the St. Louis County Assessor, Jake Zimmerman (County Assessor), from assessing personal property taxes in excess of the apportioned

Page 228

value of the aircraft, and a writ of mandamus compelling the STC to apportion the value of the aircraft.[1] On the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, the circuit court denied Taxpayer the requested relief and entered summary judgment for Defendants. On appeal, Taxpayer claims the circuit erred by (1) denying summary judgment to Taxpayer on the basis that § 155.040 RSMo 2000[2] precludes the STC from retroactively apportioning the value of the aircraft; (2) finding that Taxpayer has an adequate remedy at law and, thereby, denying Taxpayer's request for declaratory judgment; and (3) denying Taxpayer's request for an injunction and mandamus because this additional relief is necessary. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

Factual Background

Taxpayer owns two commercial aircraft, each weighing over 3,000 pounds and fully-equipped for flight. During tax years 2009 through 2011, the planes had a tax situs in Missouri. At the time, both planes were periodically hangared in the Spirit of St. Louis Airport in St. Louis County, although both planes during this period were flown mostly outside the State. Taxpayer did not declare the aircraft as personal property in a list of tangible personal property with the County Assessor and, thus, did not pay property taxes on the aircraft for the tax years at issue.

In late November 2011, Taxpayer received a letter from the County Assessor indicating that the aircraft were subject to Missouri's personal property tax. Taxpayer apparently contacted the County Assessor and the STC and provided them the information necessary to apportion the taxes owed for the relevant tax years. Apportionment would permit the tax to be levied only on those miles flown within the State of Missouri.[3] The County Assessor indicated that it could not apportion the tax owed because the STC has the authority to allocate the value of the aircraft. In turn, the STC indicated that it did not have the statutory authority to retroactively apportion the taxes owed on the aircraft.

Consequently, when the County Assessor provided Taxpayer with a tax bill for the unpaid taxes for years 2009 and 2010, the amount owed did not reflect the apportioned value of the aircraft. Instead, the tax owed was calculated by multiplying the assessed value of the aircraft by the tax rate. A subsequent tax bill for 2011 calculated the personal property tax owed for the planes the same way. The final bill provided to Taxpayer in November 2012 included the unapportioned delinquent amount owed for the tax years at issue, $493,787.17 including interest and penalties, as well as the amount owed for tax year 2012, $7,527.22, which reflects the apportioned amount owed for that year.[4]

Page 229

Taxpayer did not remit the taxes owed and, instead, in June 2012, filed the instant action for declaratory judgment, injunction, and writ of mandamus against the STC, the County Assessor, and St. Louis County. In its petition, Taxpayer alleged that its tax liability for the tax years at issue should only be $31,282.89 pursuant to the apportioned value of the aircraft under Chapter 155 of Missouri's taxation and revenue statutes. Taxpayer sought a declaration that it is entitled to apportionment of the value of its aircraft, injunctive relief preventing the County Assessor from assessing taxes against Taxpayer in excess of the aircraft's apportioned value, and a writ of mandamus requiring the STC to allocate the value of the aircraft. Before the STC filed its answer, the Collector of Revenue of St. Louis County filed a separate action ...


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