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LLC v. Louisiana Department of Revenue

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

March 21, 2018

CAV O'NEAL STEEL LOUISIANA, LLC
v.
LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE

          APPEAL FROM THE BOARD OF TAX APPEALS NO. 9342-D HONORABLE TONY GRAPHIA (ret.), CHAIRMAN

          Nicole Gould Frey David R. Cassidy Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, L.L.P. COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: O'Neal Steel Louisiana, LLC.

          Aaron Long Brandea P. Averett Antonio C. Ferachi Adrienne Quillen Louisiana Department of Revenue COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: Louisiana Department of Revenue.

          Court composed of Billy Howard Ezell, Van H. Kyzar, and Candyce G. Perret, Judges.

          VAN H. KYZAR JUDGE

         O'Neal Steel Louisiana, LLC (O'Neal), appeals from the Board of Tax Appeals' judgment, which held that certain commercial purchases of fuels and gases were not excluded from sales tax under La.R.S 47:301 (10)(x) and dismissed O'Neal's refund claim for $3, 423.33. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         O'Neal, which has its principal place of business in Lafayette, Louisiana, is engaged in the metals business, including welding and metals fabrication. O'Neal purchased, and paid sales tax on, welding gases that are used as shielding gases in the welding process. O'Neal filed a refund claim with the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) for sales taxes it paid for the period beginning January 2011 through February 2014, claiming various exemptions such as the Manufacturing, Machinery, and Equipment exemption and the Fuels exemption, which it claims includes welding gases. LDR allowed most of the refund claimed but denied the portions for sales taxes paid on the purchase of welding gases. O'Neal then appealed the ruling of LDR to the Board of Tax Appeals[1] (the Board). At the hearing, O'Neal submitted evidence that sales taxes were in fact paid on O'Neal's purchases of welding gases. The parties stipulated that O'Neal filed a $10, 066.07 refund claim for sales taxes paid, of which $9, 250.32 was initially denied, but that LDR thereafter allowed another $2, 393.42. The parties further stipulated the sum of $3, 423.33 in sales taxes paid on fuel for which O'Neal continued to claim entitlement to a refund. The Board held that commercial purchases of fuels and gases were not excluded from tax under La.R.S. 47:301(10)(x) and dismissed O'Neal's refund claim for the $3, 423.33. This appeal followed.

         O'Neal asserts the following assignments of error:

1. It was reversible error to judicially repeal 2008 La. 2nd Ext. Sess. Act 1 (Act 1), which excluded all commercial off-highway fuel purchases from tax, because simultaneous legislation, 2008 La. 2ndExt. Sess. Act 9 (Act 9), excluded only commercial purchases of butane and propane fuels from tax.
2. The trial court erred in finding Acts 1 and 9 are in conflict.
3. The trial court erred in failing to give effect to all laws passed by the legislature.
4. It is reversible error to tacitly repeal Act 1 without any attempt to harmonize it with Act 9.

         OPINION

         The resolution of this dispute hinges entirely on the interpretation of two acts passed by the Louisiana Legislature in the same session, each applicable to the purchase of the welding gases at issue here and certain exemptions from sales taxes for those purchases. Act No. 1 of the 2008 Second Extraordinary Session, excluded from tax any fuel or gas purchased, and Act No. 9 of the same session, exempted only butane and propane gases. Each act attempted to amend and reenact the same provision, La.R.S. 47:301(10)(x). The Board found that the latter act tacitly repealed the first and denied O'Neal's claim based upon that finding. Thus, the sole issue presented to the Board was a legal one: whether the O'Neal purchases of welding gases were exempt from sales tax under La.R.S. 47:301(10)(x).

         Although a deferential standard of appellate review is applied to the factual conclusions of an administrative tribunal such as the Board, the same is not true for issues of law. "Questions of law, such as the proper interpretation of a statute, are reviewed by [an appellate] court under the de novo standard of review." Land v. Vidrine, 10-1342, p.4 (La. 3/15/11), 62 So.3d 36, 39. "On legal issues, the appellate court gives no special weight to the findings of the trial court, but exercises its constitutional duty to review questions of law and renders judgment on the record." State, Through La. River boat Gaming Comm 'n v. La. State PoliceRiverboat Gaming Enft Div., 95-2355, p. 5 (La.App. 1 Cir. 8/21/96), 694 So.2d 316, 319. "Appellate review of a question of law involves a determination of whether the lower ...


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