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Turner v. Commissioner of Revenue

Supreme Court of Minnesota

December 11, 2013

Brian Turner, et al., Relators,
v.
Commissioner of Revenue, Respondent.

Tax Court Office of Appellate Courts

Eric Johnson, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for relators.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Shannon M. Harmon, Assistant Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.

SYLLABUS

1. The tax court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the taxpayers' appeal was untimely.

2. The Commissioner satisfied the constitutional requirements of due process by sending the order to the taxpayers electronically and by regular mail.

Considered and decided by the court without oral argument.

OPINION

LILLEHAUG, Justice.

Taxpayers Brian and Dawn Turner appeal the Minnesota Tax Court's dismissal of their appeal from an order of the Commissioner of Revenue (Commissioner). The tax court concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the Turners' appeal was untimely, as it was filed well after the 60-day deadline in Minn. Stat. § 271.06, subd. 2 (2012). The Turners argue that the statutory filing period did not begin to run when the order was issued because they did not consent to receive the order electronically and the Commissioner did not properly mail the order. Alternatively, the Turners argue that the methods by which the Commissioner sent the order violated their rights to due process under the United States and Minnesota Constitutions. Because the tax court did not commit clear error by rejecting the Turners' factual challenge and the Commissioner did not violate the Turners' due process rights, we affirm.

I.

On January 10, 2012, the Commissioner completed an audit of the Turners' joint Minnesota income tax returns for tax years 2006 through 2009 and issued an order assessing $6, 519.78 of additional taxes, penalties, and interest. That day, the revenue tax specialist responsible for the audit sent Brian Turner an e-mail with the subject line "Order of the Commissioner of Revenue[Secure]." The body of the e-mail informed Brian Turner of the existence of the order, summarized it, and advised of the possibility of appeal. The order itself was attached to the e-mail. The specialist sent the order electronically because Brian Turner, who was working in Saudi Arabia at the time, had recently advised him that "it would be best if any correspondence between you or your department and I be conducted electronically."

Brian Turner acknowledges that he received the e-mail on January 10, 2012. But, he claims to have been unable to open the attachment containing the order. Though he "suspect[s]" that Saudi Arabia's restrictions on internet use prevented him from opening the attachment, Brian Turner did not forward the e-mail to his wife. He returned to the United States exactly 60 days after receiving the e-mail. Six days later, on March 16, 2012, he tried to open the attachment. This time he succeeded.

The specialist claims that on January 10 or 11, 2012, he also sent the order by regular mail to the Turners' home address in Minnesota, where Dawn Turner resided while her husband was abroad. Dawn Turner "received and monitored" the mail at the Turners' home, but contends that a mailed copy of the order never arrived.

On May 8, 2012, 53 days after Brian Turner opened the e-mail attachment and 119 days after he received the e-mail, the Turners filed an appeal with the tax court. The Commissioner moved to dismiss on the ground that the tax court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the appeal because it was untimely. Over the Turners' opposition, the ...


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