By Stephen Burroughs and Tim Gustafson
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court denied a freight company’s Commerce Clause challenge to the application of an unapportioned use tax on its vehicles purchased out-of-state but used in Massachusetts. The company used its trucks to deliver freight in multiple states, but the court upheld taxation of the vehicles’ full value, in part, because a statutory “catch-all” exemption disallowed any application of the use tax that violated the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Complete Auto. The court reasoned that the “catch-all” exemption prevented hypothetical scenarios from invaliding a use tax assessment under the internal consistency test because transactions that result in actual double taxation are exempt from Massachusetts use tax. The court also concluded that the unapportioned use tax was externally consistent because it was not out of proportion to the company’s use and storage of its vehicles in Massachusetts, and the company was not subject to imposition of multiple sales or use taxes in other jurisdictions. Finally, the court determined that the vehicle use tax did not impermissibly burden interstate commerce simply because Massachusetts chooses to tax an activity that most states exempt—the in-state use or storage of vehicles engaged in interstate commerce. Regency Transp., Inc. v. Comm’r of Revenue, 473 Mass. 459, 42 N.E.2d 1133 (Ma. 2016).