Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Tax Law
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Sihota worked for the IRS for over 25 years. A 2011 IRS audit determined that, in 2003, Sihota reported a loss based on her purported ownership of NKRS, which was actually owned by Sihota’s son. The parties reached a settlement: Sihota acknowledged she had “acted negligently … resulting in an underpayment of ... $5341.00.” Sihota paid the assessment and penalty. The IRS terminated her employment, stating that Sihota was charged with either violating 5 CFR 2635.809 or 26 U.S.C. 7804, which requires the IRS to terminate any employee who willfully understates their federal tax liability, “unless such understatement is due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.” The Union invoked arbitration. A hearing was held four years after the IRS contacted the Union about scheduling. The arbitrator concluded that inclusion of the loss on her return was not willful neglect, reinstated Sihota’s employment, imposed a 10-day suspension, and held that Sihota was not entitled to back pay, citing laches and the scheduling delay. The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded, stating that it could not discern which charges were properly considered or would support the suspension. If the only charge before the arbitrator was under the statute, the arbitrator could not impose any penalty. While the Union’s delay is inexplicable and might have barred the claim if the IRS could show prejudice, after allowing Sihota’s claim to proceed, the arbitrator cannot rely on laches to reduce her back pay. View "Sihota v. Internal Revenue Service" on Justia Law

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This litigation began when purchasers of computer service contracts filed a putative class action against the sellers. The sellers successfully moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the terms of the computer services contracts. The sellers, in the meantime, had applied for tax abatements from the Commissioner of Revenue. The Commissioner denied the applications, and the sellers petitioned the Appellate Tax Board. Appellant, one of the consumers who purchased these service contracts, moved to intervene in the proceedings, which petition the Board allowed. The Board reversed the Commissioner’s decision and allowed the abatements. Taxes were imposed on the service contracts purchased by Appellant. After final judgment was entered in the sellers’ favor in the class action litigation, the sellers withdrew their tax abatement petitions with prejudice. The Board denied Appellant’s motion to strike the withdrawals and terminated the proceedings. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the Board did not err as a matter of law in allowing the Sellers’ withdrawals; but (2) the Board’s termination of the proceedings in their entirety, after permitting Appellant to intervene and allowing the abatements, was an error of law. Rather, Appellant should have been allowed to proceed as an intervener on its claim to recover the taxes imposed on the service contracts it purchased. View "WorldWide TechServices, LLC v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Respondents filed a complaint against AT&T Mobility LLC ("AT&T"), which was later consolidated with a putative class action, alleging that AT&T had engaged in false advertising and fraud by charging sales tax on phones it advertised as free. AT&T moved to compel arbitration under the terms of its contract with respondents and respondents opposed the motion contending that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable and unlawfully exculpatory under California law because it disallowed classwide procedures. The district court denied AT&T's motion in light of Discover Bank v. Superior Court and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. At issue was whether the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), 9 U.S.C. 2, prohibited states from conditioning the enforceability of certain arbitration agreements on the availability of classwide arbitration procedures. The Court held that, because it "stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress," quoting Hines v. Davidowitz, California's Discover Bank rule was preempted by the FAA. Therefore, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit's ruling and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.View "AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from a property dispute between the parties. White Springs appealed the district court's confirmation of an arbitration award in favor of Glawson, challenging the grant of attorneys' fees, expert fees, and prejudgment interest and sought to vacate or modify the arbitration award under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 10, 11. The court held that the arbitration panel had the power to decide Glawson's claims for attorneys' fees and that Glawson properly submitted the issue to the panel. The court was unable to grant White Springs' request that the court review the legality of the award of expert fees and prejudgment interest on the ad valorem taxes, as the FAA did not permit it to do so. Therefore, the court found no basis to overturn any portion of the panel's final arbitration award. View "White Springs Agricultural v. Glawson Investments Corp." on Justia Law

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The National Treasury Employees' Union (Union) sought review of an adverse ruling by the Federal Labor Relations Authority (Authority) where the Union filed a grievance alleging that the IRS was processing its members' dues revocation forms without following contractually-mandated procedures. After the parties filed exceptions to the arbitrator's award with the Authority, the Authority denied the parties' exceptions and confirmed the award in its entirety. The Union petitioned the court for review. The court held that because the Authority's decision upholding the arbitrator's award was not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law, the court had no warrant to disturb the Authority's decision. View "Natural Treasury Employees Union v. Federal Labor Relations Auth." on Justia Law

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Respondents filed a complaint against AT&T Mobility LLC ("AT&T"), which was later consolidated with a putative class action, alleging that AT&T had engaged in false advertising and fraud by charging sales tax on phones it advertised as free. AT&T moved to compel arbitration under the terms of its contract with respondents and respondents opposed the motion contending that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable and unlawfully exculpatory under California law because it disallowed classwide procedures. The district court denied AT&T's motion in light of Discover Bank v. Superior Court and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. At issue was whether the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), 9 U.S.C. 2, prohibited states from conditioning the enforceability of certain arbitration agreements on the availability of classwide arbitration procedures. The Court held that, because it "stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress," quoting Hines v. Davidowitz, California's Discover Bank rule was preempted by the FAA. Therefore, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit's ruling and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.