RED RIVER PARISH TAX AGENCY AND ELAINE MOORE IN HER CAPACITY AS TAX ADMINISTRATOR OF RED RIVER PARISH TAX AGENCY Plaintiff-Appellant
SWEPI, LP Defendant-Appellee
from the Thirty-Ninth Judicial District Court for the Parish
of Red River, Louisiana Lower Court Case No. 36432 Honorable
Dee A. U. Hawthorne, Ad Hoc Judge
Jonathan D. Stokes JONES WALKER, LLP Counsel for Appellee By:
Jesse R. Adams, III SWEPI, LP
TAYLOR, PORTER, BROOKS & Counsel for Appellee PHILLIPS,
L.L.P. Halliburton Energy By: Jonathan A. Moore Services,
DREW, MOORE, and STONE, JJ.
Red River Parish Tax Agency and Elaine Moore, in her capacity
as tax administrator for Red River Parish Tax Agency
("the Collector"), filed a petition for declaratory
judgment seeking a declaration that Appellee, SWEPI, LP
("SWEPI"), is not entitled to a sales tax refund.
The district court granted SWEPI's exceptions of no cause
of action, no right of action, and lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. For the following reasons, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
is an oil and gas exploration company that owns and operates
natural gas wells in Red River Parish. In the course and
scope of its operations, SWEPI contracted for hydraulic
fracturing services ("fracking services") with
Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. ("Halliburton").
During the taxable periods between January 2012 and August
2012, SWEPI alleged it erroneously paid Halliburton $880,
312.12 in sales tax on certain proppant materials used by
Halliburton in performance of its fracking services. SWEPI
filed a request for a refund ("Claim for Refund")
asserting its payment of the sales tax constituted an
"overpayment, " pursuant to La. R.S. 47:337.77.
However, the Collector denied the request.
April 28, 2015, SWEPI appealed the denial of its Claim for
Refund to the Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals
("BTA"), pursuant to La. R.S.
47:337.81. SWEPI sought a redetermination from the
BTA that it is entitled to a refund of the sales tax it paid
a week later, the Collector disregarded the appeal pending
before the BTA, and filed a petition for declaratory judgment
with the 39th Judicial District Court. The Collector sought a
declaration that SWEPI is not entitled to a refund, and
alternatively, that it is not liable to SWEPI for the refund.
In response, SWEPI filed peremptory exceptions of no cause
and no right of action, and a declinatory exception of lack
of subject matter jurisdiction. SWEPI argued the district
court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter because the BTA
is vested with exclusive original jurisdiction over local tax
awaiting a ruling on the exceptions, the Collector filed a
motion with the BTA to transfer SWEPI's appeal to
district court. According to the Collector, La. Acts 2014,
No. 640 ("Act 640"), which expanded the BTA's
jurisdiction to include local sales and use tax refunds,
unconstitutionally revoked district courts of the original
jurisdiction vested in them by La. Const. art. V, § 16.
The Collector argued the transfer of SWEPI's appeal to
district court was mandated by La. R.S. 47:1432(B)(1)
("the transfer statute") in order for the Collector
to challenge the constitutionality of Act 640. After a hearing,
the BTA denied the motion, finding the transfer statute did
not defeat its jurisdiction over local tax refund
24, 2016, the district court granted SWEPI's exceptions
and dismissed the Collector's petition for declaratory
judgment. The district court found the legislature vested the
BTA with exclusive original jurisdiction over local tax
refund disputes. Consequently, the district court concluded
it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider the merits
of the Collector's petition for declaratory judgment, and
incidentally, the Collector had no cause or right of action
in district court. The Collector now appeals.