News

Hotel Tax Law Up for Senate Review

The Tennessee Hospitality Association is seeking to amend a hotel tax law and require online travel companies to pay more in taxes, a measure that would add more than $1 million to annual tax revenue. The trade group argues that online travel companies have a competitive advantage because they pay taxes in a discounted room rate rather than the retail rate. It believes that changing the language of the state law will level the playing field. The Nashville Business Journal has the story.

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AG Says Solar Tax Breaks May Be Unconstitutional

Attorney General Robert Cooper said in an opinion released today that tax breaks for the solar industry may be unconstitutional, the Tennessean reports. The 2010 law that slashed property tax bills for green energy installations was one of three tax breaks backed by former Gov. Phil Bredesen. In the opinion, Cooper said that the tax effectively gives certain business owners exemptions that are not authorized by the state Constitution.

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NY Court Rules Lap Dances Taxable

The New York Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that since lap dancing does not promote community culture in the way dance such as ballet does, it is taxable the ABA Journal reports. Albany establishment Nite Moves challenged the state tax law when they were ordered to pay $400,000 in back taxes, claiming the law does not make a distinction between “highbrow dance and lowbrow dance.”

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Farmland Tax Law Loophole Benefits Urban, Wealthy

A 1976 Tennessee state farmland protection law originally intended to prevent farmers from being taxed off their land has become a tax loophole exploited by wealthy, urban, estate owners, business icons, and real estate developers, the Commercial Appeal reports. According to the newspaper’s investigation, the Agricultural, Forest and Open Space Land Act, or “Greenbelt Law,” is allegedly rife with abuse as the wealthy receive tax benefits by declaring a woods a timber preserve, a mansion’s manicured lawn a pasture, a future subdivision a farm, and a privately owned country club’s golf course an “open space.”

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Sales Tax Dispute to Be Argued This Week

Oral arguments are scheduled for Wednesday morning in the Tennessee Court of Appeals Eastern Division to settle the sales-tax dispute between the city of Cleveland and Bradley County. The city will continue its argument that the proceeds of the 1967, 1972 and 1982 sales taxes should be divided between the city and county based on the point of the sale as stated in Tennessee Code. The county asserts the proceeds of each local option sales tax should be divided between the two local governments in accordance with the formula established in the 1967 contract, which is based on school population. The Cleveland Daily Banner has the story

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Feds Reportedly Drop Arriola Tax Investigation

Nashville’s NewsChannel 5 reported this week that federal prosecutors have dropped an investigation into whether former Davidson County Clerk John Arriola cheated on his taxes. The news comes six weeks after Arriola resigned his position to avoid prosecution on state charges that he illegally pocketed almost $120,000 for weddings he performed on taxpayer time.

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Disbarred Attorney Involved in Snipes Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Sumner County attorney John Pierce Brownlee Jr. earlier this month for participating in a fraudulent business that encouraged clients to avoid paying taxes. Now news has surfaced that Brownlee’s clientele included action movie superstar Wesley Snipes, who is currently serving a three-year prison sentence for failure to file income tax returns. Brownlee was convicted in January 2008 for conspiring to defraud and interfere with the Internal Revenue Service, which caused tax losses of up to $10 million. The Tennesseam has more

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Haslam Asks Congress to Help with Online Sales Tax

More than 21 states have simplified how they collect taxes in hopes of recovering an estimated $20 billion in sales taxes that go uncollected by out-of-state online merchants every year. But the nation's governors say they still need help from Congress. Speaking on behalf of the National Governors Association, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that it is not fair to local businesses that online sellers are not always required to collect and distribute state sales taxes. Read more of his remarks in the Bristol Herald Courier

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Roberts Surprises as Court Upholds Health Care Act

The high court today let stand, in a 5-4 decision, the centerpiece of President Obama's health care legislation, with Chief Justice John Roberts surprising many by casting the deciding vote and writing the majority opinion. His rationale is that Congress under the Commerce Clause does not have the authority to require people to buy insurance — but it does have the authority to tax people who do not have coverage. The so-called individual mandate embedded in the health care legislation, Roberts wrote, "must be construed as imposing a tax on those who do not have health insurance, if such a construction is reasonable." Read more from NPR and the National Law Journal. Relive the action as it unfolded, from the Blog of Legal Times or read what Tennessee business, health care and political leaders had to say in the Nashville Post.

The Tennessee Bar Association will explore what the next steps will be for the legislation in a July 12 webcast featuring John Voigt of Sherrard & Roe. Learn more or register now.

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Haslam Defends Death Tax Stance to Wall Street Journal

In a March 24 editorial, the Wall Street Journal declared Gov. Bill Haslam "the main obstacle to reform" of Tennessee's inheritance tax. Now Haslam has replied with a letter to the editor of the publication that appears under the headline, "I'm Not the Problem on Death Tax Reform." The News Sentinel has more

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