By Christopher Chang and Andrew Appleby

In an action challenging the constitutionality of two New York flat highway taxes, a New York trial court ruled in favor of the taxpayer, denying a motion to dismiss filed by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. The taxpayer made clear in its opposition to the Department’s motion that it relies on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in American Trucking Associations, Inc., 483 U.S. 266 (1987) to assert that New York State’s flat vehicle registration and decal charges violate the Commerce Clause. In American Trucking Associations, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that two Pennsylvania flat vehicle taxes violated the Commerce Clause, in part, because the taxes effectively imposed a higher charge per mile on out-of-state vehicles. The New York trial court determined that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Commerce Clause analysis in American Trucking Associations, coupled with the factual allegations in the taxpayer’s complaint, were sufficient to set forth a cognizable Commerce Clause cause of action by the taxpayer. The trial court also denied the Department’s motions to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims for refund, injunctive relief and prospective relief, but did grant the Department’s motion to dismiss the second cause of action in the complaint involving a Due Process challenge. The outcome of this case could impact a number of unapportioned taxes—interested taxpayers should keep an eye on this case as it makes its way through the New York courts. Owner Operator Ind. Drivers Assoc. v. New York State Dep’t of Taxation & Fin., N.Y. Slip Op. 30226 (U) (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Jan. 28, 2014).