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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Appellants Rockey and Linda Piazza and Tara Levy purchased rebate-eligible items from Best Buy Stores LP and OfficeMax Inc. (collectively, the retailers). The Piazzas bought items from Best Buy, and Levy bought items from OfficeMax. For each of the items, appellants paid retail price as well as sales tax on the full retail price. They subsequently complied with the applicable rebate programs and received rebates of a portion of the retail price. They did not, however, receive a refund of the sales tax paid on the rebated portion. Appellants filed suit individually and as a class action against the retailers. The nature of the relief they requested evolved. Initially, appellants sought refunds directly from the retailers. They amended their petition to seek, in the alternative, assignments from the retailers of the right to seek a refund from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Best Buy and the appellants reached a tentative settlement agreement in which Best Buy would refund all sales tax to members of the class if Best Buy could receive assurances either by agreement with the comptroller or by declaratory judgment that Best Buy would be allowed to credit the amount refunded against its future sales tax payments to the comptroller. The comptroller agreed to allow a credit for most of the refunds but concluded that some refunds were barred by the statute of limitations. Appellants subsequently amended their petition to join the comptroller as a defendant, seeking a declaratory judgment that the filing of their suit against the retailers tolled the statute of limitations. The comptroller filed a plea to the jurisdiction asserting that: appellants failed to exhaust their administrative remedies; appellants could seek relief only through the tax code procedures; and appellants’ claims for declaratory relief were not ripe. The district court granted the comptroller’s plea to the jurisdiction. But because the effect of the court’s order on the claims against the retailers was unclear, the court twice clarified its order. The final order dismissed all of appellants’ claims except for 1. their individual claims for injunctive relief to compel an assignment from the retailers of the right to pursue a tax refund from the comptroller; and 2. their individual claims for damages beyond the amount of any tax refund. The order expressly stated that all claims for classwide relief were dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Pursuant to an agreed order, the district court severed the individual claims from all of the dismissed claims, making the court’s order as to the dismissed claims final and appealable. This appeal followed. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. The court stated that its resolution of the appeal turned on the interpretation of Texas Tax Code �111.104. First, the court noted the 1999 Texas Supreme Court opinion Fleming Foods Inc. v. Rylander, in which that court held that the plain language of �111.104 allowed a taxpayer who paid sales tax to a vendor rather than directly to the state to pursue a refund from the state without first obtaining an assignment from the vendor who collected and remitted the tax. After Fleming Foods, the Legislature amended �111.104(b) to provide: “A tax refund claim may be filed with the comptroller only by the person who directly paid the tax to this state or by the person’s attorney, assignee, or other successor.” The amended statute, the court stated, precluded appellants from filing a refund claim with the comptroller, because they did not pay the tax directly to the state. But the statute allows an assignee to file a refund claim with the comptroller, even if the assignee did not directly pay the tax to the state. Therefore, the court concluded that appellants may file a refund claim with the comptroller once they have procured an assignment from the retailers. The court stated it was “persuaded by appellants’ argument that the Comptroller lacks jurisdiction to consider appellants’ claims to compel an assignment from the Retailers.” The court then concluded that the district court had jurisdiction to consider appellants’ claims against the retailers for assignment of refund rights and also to consider whether a class should be certified. OPINION:Patterson, J.; Patterson, Pemberton and Waldrop, JJ.

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