The recent decision in Alenia N. America, Inc. v. District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue in the District of Columbia Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) could present opportunities for District taxpayers to receive corporate franchise tax refunds by including their joint ventures’ apportionment factors in the taxpayers’ District apportionment percentage calculation.  Alenia N. America v. District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue, Dkt. 2012-OTR-00015 (D.C. O.A.H.  Mar. 11, 2014).

Through an unwritten, internal policy, the District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR) prohibited separate filers from including the apportionment factors of joint ventures in which a taxpayer was a member/partner in the apportionment percentage calculation while permitting consolidated filers to do so.  Alenia N. America challenged this interpretation of the District’s apportionment formula, filing a protest in OAH.  Alenia is a separate filer C Corporation headquartered in the District.  A portion of Alenia’s 2010 tax year income resulted from its 51 percent ownership in a Mississippi LLC, Global Military Aircraft Systems (GMAS).  Because OTR required Alenia to include the income resulting from ownership of GMAS in its apportionable tax base but exclude the apportionment factors of GMAS, Alenia’s District apportionment percentage increased from 55.1899 percent to 86.1993 percent.  OTR effectively asserted the power of taxation over income derived from sources outside of the District.

OAH granted a summary decision in favor of Alenia, holding that GMAS’ apportionment factors could be included by Alenia because Alenia and GMAS were unitary and the District’s apportionment statute was designed with the purpose to create uniformity; most states applying formulaic apportionment allow for the inclusion of the apportionment factors (see Homart Development Co. v. Norberg, 529 A.2d 115 (R.I. 1987); Malpass v. Dep’t of Treasury, 494 Mich. 237, 833 N.W.2d 272 (2013)); and factor inclusion was necessary to reflect the source of the GMAS income.  Reading the District’s apportionment statute, D.C. Code § 47-1810.02, “consistently with its constitutional underpinnings and its general purpose to promote uniformity” overcame the silence as to whether the inclusion of factors applied to separate filers.  OTR’s misinterpretation of District law was “in conflict with the statute.” Alenia, Dkt. 2012-OTR-00015 at *26.

In light of the holding in Alenia allowing for the inclusion of the apportionment factors of joint ventures, taxpayers should consider whether District refunds are now available to them.  Further, an argument can be made that the holding in Alenia continues to apply despite the District’s switch to a combined reporting regime because of the court’s insistence that factor inclusion is necessary to reflect the source of the taxpayer’s income.

For a copy of the decision, contact one of the authors.

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