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Piney Ridge Lodge, Inc. v. Commissioner of Revenue

July 27, 2006

PINEY RIDGE LODGE, INC., RELATOR,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF REVENUE, RESPONDENT.



Tax Court

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Where the record does not disclose that taxpayer complied with the statutory appeal provisions, the tax court correctly dismissed the appeal served and filed after the statutory deadline.

Affirmed.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gildea, Justice.

Considered and decided by the court en banc without oral argument.

OPINION

Piney Ridge Lodge challenges, by writ of certiorari, the tax court's dismissal of its appeal. Piney Ridge argues that its February 2005 appeal was timely because it had conversations with an audit supervisor in the Department of Revenue that preserved its right to formally appeal to the tax court. Because there is no evidence in the record indicating that Piney Ridge complied with the statutory procedures for formal or informal appeal, we hold that the tax court properly dismissed an appeal filed well after the 60-day appeal period.

Piney Ridge Lodge, a resort near Pine River, Minnesota, did not file corporate franchise tax returns for 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001. Pursuant to statutory authority, the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue issued a Notice of Change in Tax to Piney Ridge on September 2, 2003 (Notice), assessing the past-due taxes. With penalties and accrued interest, the commissioner's assessment totaled $211,057. The Notice stated that it was "an official order of the Commissioner of Revenue determining [Piney Ridge's] corporate franchise tax liability for the tax periods" 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001.

The Notice included information about how Piney Ridge could appeal the commissioner's decision. The Notice provided: "If you disagree with this notice, you have 60 days from the notice date to appeal informally to the Department of Revenue or formally to the Minnesota Tax Court." Regarding the option of an administrative appeal to the department, the Notice stated:

If you decide to appeal informally to the Department of Revenue, you must prepare a written appeal. Please include a copy of this notice. The appeal should include: your name, address and taxpayer ID number, taxable periods and the amount in question for each period; the items on the notice that you disagree with; a summary of the facts or law you are basing your appeal on; the date of your appeal and the signature of the person who prepared the appeal. Include any information or documentation to support your appeal, and mail it to the office and address listed below.

If you appeal to the Department and your appeal is denied in whole or in part, you will have an additional 60 days to appeal that denial to the tax court.

Sometime after its receipt of the Notice (the record does not disclose precisely when), Piney Ridge entered into conversations with an audit supervisor in the department. On or about December 9, 2004, the department sent Piney Ridge a document titled "Final Notice and Demand for Payment." This document explained that the department was prepared to file a tax lien against Piney Ridge and to begin a collection action. It also encouraged Piney Ridge to explore an agreement regarding "payment terms" with the department.

On February 11, 2005, Piney Ridge filed a notice of appeal in the tax court. The commissioner moved to dismiss, arguing that because the appeal was filed after the end of the 60-day period for appeal, the tax court lacked jurisdiction to hear Piney Ridge's appeal. The tax court agreed and dismissed the appeal.*fn1

The parties do not dispute the facts that are the basis for the tax court's order dismissing Piney Ridge's appeal. Accordingly, our sole task is to determine whether the tax court correctly applied Minnesota law, and our review is de novo. See Minn. Stat. § 271.10, subd. 1 (2004); Gonzales v. Comm'r of Revenue,706 N.W.2d 909, ...


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