By Ted Friedman and Charlie Kearns
On August 3, 2017, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that the issuance of a sales tax assessment by the City of San Luis violated the due process rights of a company that calculated its tax liability based on publicly available versions of the tax code that showed a franchise fee credit was still in effect, despite the credit having been repealed by an unpublished ordinance. The City passed an ordinance that repealed a tax credit for franchise fees paid by public utilities, but the City did not amend, or attach the ordinance to, the tax code on file with the City Clerk, the Arizona Department of Revenue, the League of Arizona Cities and Towns or the Municipal Tax Code Commission to reflect the repeal. The company calculated its tax liability using the repealed franchise fee tax credits, and the City issued an assessment for additional sales tax, penalties and interest. The Court of Appeals explained that it “violates taxpayers’ due process rights for a taxing authority to play hide-and-seek with taxpayers by publishing an incorrect version of a tax code, not attaching amendatory ordinances, and then penalizing taxpayers when they abide by the published code.” Ariz. Pub. Serv. Co. v. City of San Luis, No. 1 CA-TX 16-0009 (Ariz. Ct. App. Aug. 3, 2017).