ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONER:
B. KEITH SHAKE
HENDERSON DAILY WITHROW & DEVOE
ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT:
ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL
INDIANA TAX COURT
1 STOP AUTO SALES, INC. )
COMPANY, Successor in Merger with
v. ) Cause No. 49T10-9809-TA-108
INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF )
STATE REVENUE, )
ON APPEAL FROM A FINAL DETERMINATION
OF THE INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF STATE REVENUE
December 2, 2002
1 Stop Auto Sales, Inc. (1 Stop) appeals the final determination of the
Indiana Department of State Revenue (Department) denying it a refund of state gross
retail tax (sales tax) under Indiana Code Section 6-2.5-6-9, Indianas Bad Debt statute,
for the 19931997 tax years. The parties raise three issues, which the
Court restates as:
I. Whether the Court has jurisdiction over 1 Stops 1993 refund claim;
II. Whether 1 Stop is entitled to a bad debt deduction pursuant to Indiana
Code § 6-2.5-6-9; and
III. Whether a bad debt deduction under Indiana Code § 6-2.5-6-9 must equal the
amount of Indiana bad debt written off for federal tax purposes.
For the reasons stated below, the Court DISMISSES 1 Stops 1993 refund claim
for lack of jurisdiction and REMANDS the Departments final determination on 1 Stops
refund claims for the 19941997 tax years for further proceedings consistent with this
opinion.FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
1 Stop is an Indiana corporation that sells vehicles to the public on
a buy-here-pay-here basis, which means that purchasers of 1 Stops vehicles (Consumers) may
purchase a vehicle under an installment contract with no money down. When
the Consumers opt for this type of financing, 1 Stop does not collect
sales tax from the Consumers on the purchase price of the vehicle at
the time of the sale. Rather, it loans the sales tax to
the Consumers then remits the entire amount of sales tax due to the
See footnote From time to time, the Consumers default on their contracts with
1 Stop. 1 Stop characterizes the receivables from these contracts as uncollectible,
or bad debt.
Prior to October 1996, 1 Stop reported its sales to the Department and
remitted, in full, the sales tax due on these retail transactions. Beginning
in October 1996, however, 1 Stops monthly sales tax returns reflected a reduction
in its current month taxable sales by the amount of prior bad debts.
On August 4, 1997, the Department notified 1 Stop, by letter, that
since January 1991, its policy had been to allow credits to be taken
against amounts due
only for excess [sales tax] payments made or sales overstated
in error. (Petr Original Tax Appeal at 3 (emphasis in original).)
The Department also indicated that it would audit 1 Stop for the years
January 1, 1994 through December 31, 1996, and would give it a sales
tax credit where appropriate. As a result of its audit, the Department
assessed 1 Stop for additional sales tax in the amount of $131,625.94, plus
interest of $3,407.84. 1 Stop paid the assessment on January 6, 1998.
Subsequent to receiving its letter from the Department, 1 Stop filed several claims
for refund of sales tax: on September 11, 1997, it filed a
$22,416.42 refund claim for 1993; on December 31, 1997, it filed refund claims
for 1994, 1995, and 1996 in the amounts of $29,021.23, $59,210.76, and $56,180.11,
respectively; and on March 9, 1998, it filed a $96,435.96 refund claim for
1997. For each claim, 1 Stop argued that it was entitled to
a refund of the sales tax that it had paid on those receivables
that it had written off as bad debt for federal tax purposes.
On June 10, 1998, the Department denied all five of 1 Stops claims.
On September 4, 1998, 1 Stop initiated this original tax appeal.
On January 18, 2000, the Court held a trial. On July 6,
2000, the parties presented oral arguments. Additional facts will be supplied as
ANALYSIS AND OPINION
Standard of Review
This Court hears appeals from denials of refunds by the Department de novo.
Chrysler Financial Co., LLC v. Indiana Dept of State Revenue, 761 N.E.2d
909, 911 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2002), review denied. It is therefore not
bound by the evidence or the issues raised at the administrative level.
I. Subject Matter Jurisdiction
The first issue is whether the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over 1
Stops 1993 refund claim. The Department argues that because 1 Stop filed
its 1993 refund claim more than three years after the taxes were paid,
the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. 1 Stop argues, however, that the
Department waived the issue of subject matter jurisdiction because it failed to plead
the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense in its Answer and Pre-trial
Contentions. 1 Stop is incorrect.
Subject matter jurisdiction implicates the power of a court to hear and determine
the class of cases to which the case before it belongs, and it
may not be waived.
UACC Midwest, Inc. v. Indiana Dept of
State Revenue, 629 N.E.2d 1295, 1298 n.1 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1994); State Bd.
of Tax Commrs v. Vermillion County Property Owners Assn, 490 N.E.2d 341, 346
(Ind. Ct. App. 1986), review denied. See also Town Council of New
Harmony v. Parker, 726 N.E.2d 1217, 1223 n.8 (Ind. 2000) (holding that [w]here
lack of subject matter jurisdiction in the original tribunal is apparent from the
record, it is the duty of the reviewing court to raise and determine
the issue sua sponte). Furthermore, the Indiana Legislature has expressly provided that
[i]f a taxpayer fails to comply with any statutory requirement for the initiation
of an original tax appeal, the tax court does not have jurisdiction to
hear the appeal. Ind. Code § 33-3-5-11(a). Cf. Ind. Tax Court
Rule 1 (providing that nothing . . . in the Trial Rules shall
be deemed to extend the jurisdiction of the Tax Court with respect to
persons, actions, or claims over which it does not otherwise have authority).
Consequently, when seeking a refund of sales tax, a taxpayer must comply with
the requirements of Indiana Code Section 6-8.1-9-1, see UACC Midwest, 629 N.E.2d at
129899, which states:
(a) If a person has paid more tax than the person determines is legally
due for a particular taxable period, the person may file a claim for
a refund with the department. [I]n order to obtain the refund, the
person must file the claim with the department within three (3) years after
the latter of the following:
(1) The due date of the return.
(2) The date of payment.
For purposes of this section, the due date for a return filed for
the state gross retail or use tax . . . is the end
of the calendar year which contains the taxable period for which the return
is filed. The claim must set forth the amount of the refund
to which the person is entitled and the reasons that the person is
entitled to the refund.
Ind. Code § 6-8.1-9-1(a) (1998) (emphasis added).
Accordingly, if 1 Stop wanted a refund of the sales tax it paid
during 1993, the very latest it could have filed a claim was no
later than three years after December 31, 1993 (the latest possible due date
of return), or by January 1, 1997.See footnote See I.C. 6-8.1-9-1(a). 1
Stop, however, did not file a refund claim for sales tax it paid
during 1993 until September 1997, nine months past the statutory deadline.
Because 1 Stop did not comply with the statutory requirements of Indiana Code
Section 6-8.1-9-1, this Court does not have jurisdiction over its claim. See
UACC Midwest, 629 N.E.2d at 129899; Evansville Concrete Supply Co., Inc. v. Indiana
Dept of State Revenue, 571 N.E.2d 1350, 1352 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1991).
Accordingly, the Court DISMISSES 1 Stops refund claim for 1993 for lack of
II. Bad Debt Deduction
The next issue is whether 1 Stop is entitled to a bad debt
deduction pursuant to Indiana Code Section 6-2.5-6-9, which provides that a retail merchant
may deduct from its gross retail income an amount equal to its receivables
(1) resulted from retail transactions in which the retail merchant did not collect
the state gross retail or use tax from the purchaser; (2) resulted from
retail transactions on which the retail merchant has previously paid the state gross
retail or use tax liability to the department; and (3) were written
off as an uncollectible debt for federal tax purposes during the particular reporting
Chrysler Financial, 761 N.E.2d at 914 (quoting Ind. Code § 6-2.5-6-9(a)) (internal punctuation
omitted). 1 Stop argues that it is entitled to a bad debt
deduction because it has remitted sales tax on retail sales for which it
has not collected sales tax from the Consumers, and it has subsequently written
those receivables off as bad debt for federal tax purposes. The Department
argues that 1 Stop is estopped from claiming a bad debt deduction for
two separate reasons. First, the Department contends that the law prohibits 1
Stop from loaning sales tax to the Consumers because Indiana Code Section 6-2.5-9-4
prohibits retail merchants from assuming or absorbing sales tax on the prices of
See footnote Consequently, the Department argues that 1 Stop cannot claim a
bad debt deduction where it has loaned sales tax to the Consumers and
not collected it. The Department, however, is incorrect.
Indiana Code Section 6-2.5-9-4(a)(2) states [e]xcept as provided in IC 6-2.5-7, a person
who: . . . offers
to assume or absorb part of a customers
state gross retail or use tax on a sale . . . commits
a class B infraction. Ind. Code § 6-2.5-9-4(a)(2) (emphasis added). The
Indiana Legislature, however, has not defined the words assume or absorb, therefore this
Court must give each word its common and ordinary meaning. See LDI
Mfg. Co., Inc. v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 759 N.E.2d 685, 689
(Ind. Tax Ct. 2001) (citing Ind. Code § 1-1-4-1(1)); Tucker v. State, 646
N.E.2d 972, 975 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995). In determining the common and
ordinary meaning of a word, this Court may look to the dictionary.
May Dept. Stores Co. v. Indiana Dept of State Revenue, 749 N.E.2d 651,
661 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2001).
Blacks Law Dictionary indicates that to assume a debt is to take it
for or on oneself. See Blacks Law Dictionary 120 (7th ed. 1999)
(defining assume as [t]he act of taking (esp. someone elses debt or other
obligation) for or on oneself). Thus, a party who assumes a sales
tax takes the obligation of paying the tax for or on himself.
See id. In other words, a party who assumes a sales tax
accepts legal liability for the ultimate payment of the tax. See id.
Absorption, on the other hand, is where a seller pays certain costs
owed by a purchaser, which the seller accounts for prior to quoting the
purchaser a price. See id. at 8. Hence, a seller who
absorbs a sales tax excludes it from the price of the goods sold.
The Court therefore finds that the plain and ordinary meaning of to assume
or absorb a sales tax is to accept legal liability for the ultimate
payment of the tax or to exclude it from the price of the
goods sold. See id at 8, 120. Thus, a retail merchant
does not assume or absorb a sales tax merely by lending it, because
lending sales tax neither places legal liability for its ultimate payment on the
lender nor excludes it from the price of goods sold. See id.
Accordingly, Indiana Code Section 6-2.5-9-4(a)(2) does not prohibit a retail merchant from
loaning sales tax to a purchaser under a valid installment contract. Consequently, 1
Stop did not assume or absorb any sales tax; it simply loaned sales
tax to the Consumers, who bore the legal liability for its ultimate payment
by contracting to reimburse 1 Stop. Thus, the Departments first argument is
Next, the Department contends that 1 Stop is estopped from claiming that it
did not collect sales tax from the Consumers, which it must show to
be entitled to a bad debt deduction under Indiana Code Section 6-2.5-6-9.
Specifically, the Department argues that because 1 Stop filed several Form ST-108 Certificates
of Gross Retail or Use Tax Paid on the Purchase of Motor Vehicle
or Watercraft (Form ST-108),
See footnote 1 Stop certified that it
had collected sales tax
from the Consumers and cannot now claim that it did not collect the
The Departments own rule regarding Form ST-108 provides in relevant part that [i]f
the vehicle is purchased from a registered Indiana motor vehicle dealer, the dealer
must collect the tax and provide the purchaser a completed form ST-108 showing
that the tax has been paid to him[.] Ind. Admin. Code tit.
45, r. 2.2-3-5(c) (emphasis added). On the other hand, the Legislature has
merely provided that [t]he state may not title a vehicle . . .
unless the person obtaining the title or registration . . . presents proper
evidence, prescribed by the department, showing that the state gross retail and use
taxes imposed in respect to the vehicle . . . have been paid[.]
Ind. Code § 6-2.5-9-6(a)(1) (emphasis added). Thus, whereas the plain language of
Indiana Code Section 6-2.5-9-6(a)(1) merely requires proof that sales or use taxes have
been remitted, the Departments rule requires additional proof that sales or use taxes
have been collected by a registered auto dealer. See id.
The Department may not by its rules and regulations add to or detract
from the law as enacted[.] Johnson County Farm Bureau Co-op. Assn, Inc.
v. Indiana Dept of State Revenue, 568 N.E.2d 578, 587 (Ind. Tax Ct.
1991) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), affd by 585 N.E.2d 1336 (Ind.
1991). Accordingly, to the extent that the Departments rule requires more than
a showing that sales or use taxes have been paid on the purchase
price of a vehicle, the Departments rule is invalid. See Johnson County
Farm Bureau Co-op, 568 N.E.2d at 587.
All that was required of 1 Stop under Indiana Code Section 6-2.5-9-6(a)(1) was
to certify that sales tax on the vehicle purchase price had been paid.
See I.C. § 6-2.5-9-6(a)(1). Because 1 Stop has satisfied this requirement,
the Court holds that its certification of the Form ST-108s does not bar
it from claiming a bad debt deduction under Indiana Code Section 6-2.5-6-9(a).
Moreover, because 1 Stop has remitted sales tax on Indiana receivables subsequently written
off for federal tax purposes, it may claim a bad debt deduction under
Indiana Code Section 6-2.5-6-9(a).
See Chrysler Financial, 761 N.E.2d 91415.
III. Determining a Bad Debt deduction
Having determined that 1 Stop may claim a bad debt deduction under Indiana
Code Section 6-2.5-6-9(a) for 19941997, the next issue before the Court is the
amount of the deduction. 1 Stop argues that a bad debt deduction
under Indiana Code Section 6-2.5-6-9 does not necessarily have to equal the amount
of bad debt it wrote off for federal tax purposes. Rather, 1
Stop contends that the provisions of the Bad Debt statute only determine a
retail merchants eligibility for a bad debt deduction and not the amount of
See footnote (
See Petr Post Trial Br. at 6.) The Department,
on the other hand, argues that 1 Stop must calculate any sales tax
refund in a manner consistent with the way bad debt is calculated for
federal tax purposes.See footnote
Indiana Code Section 6-2.5-6-9(a) provides:
(a) In determining the amount of state gross retail and use taxes which he
must remit under section 7 of this chapter, a retail merchant shall deduct
from his gross retail income from retail transactions made during a particular reporting
period, an amount
equal to his receivables which:
(1) resulted from retail transactions in which the retail merchant did not collect the
state gross retail or use tax from the purchaser;
(2) resulted from retail transactions on which the retail merchant has previously paid the
state gross retail or use tax liability to the department; and
(3) were written off as an uncollectible debt for federal tax purposes during the
particular reporting period.
Ind. Code § 6-2.5-6-9(a) (emphasis added). It is clear from the plain
language of Indiana Code Section 6-2.5-6-9(a) that the amount of uncollectible Indiana receivables
to be deducted must equal the amount of Indiana receivables deducted pursuant to
subsection (3). See I.C. § 6-2.5-6-9(a). Thus, if a retail merchant
has (1) not collected sales tax on the purchases at retail from the
purchasers and (2) remitted the sales tax to the Department, then (3) for
the purpose of the Indiana Code Section 6-2.5-6-9, the amount of its deduction
must equal the amount of the Indiana receivables it writes off as bad
debt for federal tax purposes. See I.C. §§ 6-2.5-6-9(a)(1)(3). Therefore, the
Department need only determine the amount of 1 Stops Indiana receivables that it
claimed as bad debt for federal tax purposes to determine the amount of
its deduction under the Bad Debt statute.
See footnote The Court therefore REMANDS the
Departments final determination of 1 Stops claim for a sales tax refund for
19941997 to determine the appropriate refund due to 1 Stop.
For the reasons stated, the Court DISMISSES 1 Stops 1993 claim for a
sales tax refund for lack of jurisdiction. The Court REMANDS the Departments
final determination on 1 Stops 19941997 sales tax refund claims to determine the
appropriate refund due to 1 Stop.
Footnote: In turn, when 1 Stop collects payments from the Consumers, it applies
a pro-rata share of each payment to cover the sales tax it previously
remitted to the Department on the sale.
Footnote: On the other hand, the issue of this Courts jurisdiction over a
particular case may be waived.
See Carroll County Rural Elec. Membership Corp.
v. Indiana Dept of State Revenue, 733 N.E.2d 44, 47 (Ind. Tax Ct.
2000) (distinguishing between subject matter jurisdiction and jurisdiction over a particular case); Chemco
Transport, Inc. v. Conn, 506 N.E.2d 1111, 111314 (Ind. Ct. App. 1987), vacated
in part on other grounds (distinguishing between subject matter jurisdiction and waiver of
jurisdiction of the case).
1 Stop does not state the actual date or dates it paid
its taxes in 1993, only that it paid them during 1993. (
Petr Original Tax Appeal at 3.)
In other words, the Department argues that loaning a sales tax is
tantamount to assuming or absorbing it.
Footnote: Form ST-108 states: I hereby certify that . . . the amount
of Gross Retail Sales/Use Tax
was collected from the purchaser. (Petr Ex.
A (emphasis added).) 1 Stop does not deny that it filled out
the Form ST-108s for the years in question.
Were the Court to hold otherwise, it would render Indianas Bad Debt
statute a nullity as to 1 Stop and similarly situated merchants. This
Court presumes that the Legislature did not intend to enact a statute that
is meaningless or a nullity.
Chrysler Financial Co., LLC v. Indiana Dept
of State Revenue, 761 N.E.2d 909, 916 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2002), review denied.
In other words, 1 Stop argues that any retail merchant that writes
de minimis amount of bad debt for federal tax purposes is
not limited to deducting that amount under the Bad Debt statute but may
deduct a greater amount under an accounting method different from the one by
which it calculated its federal bad debt. The Court notes that
this issue was not raised in Chrysler Financial, which was the first case
to deal with Indianas Bad Debt statute.
The Department also suggests that the Court scrutinize whether 1 Stop properly
accounted for its bad debt on its federal tax returns. (Respt Post
Trial Br. at 78.) With regard to federal  taxes, the Bad
Debt statute only requires that the bad debt be deducted for federal 
tax purposes, not that the taxpayer demonstrate the validity of the deduction.
Chrysler Financial, 761 N.E.2d at 916 n.17 (citing Ind. Code § 6-2.5-6-9(a)(3))
(emphasis omitted). Thus, the Departments suggestion is without merit. See id.
In the alternative, the Department argues that because article 3 of the
Indiana tax code incorporates by reference the rules of the Internal Revenue Service
(IRS), then 1 Stop must look to IRS rules when calculating a deduction
under Indianas Bad Debt statute. (Respt Post Trial Br. at 1314 (citing
Ind. Code § 6-3-1-17).) However, the sales tax and Bad Debt statutes
fall under article 2.5 of the Indiana tax code, and the Department has
cited no statute indicating that article 2.5 incorporates IRS rules. Therefore, the
Court will not address the Departments argument.
The parties argue at length over the intricacies and applicability of various
accounting methods. However, the Court need not analyze these arguments to reach
the merits of this case. Indianas sales tax is a listed tax.
Ind. Code § 6-8.1-1-1. If the Department has a rule regarding
the appropriate accounting method for determining a deduction of taxable receivables under the
Bad Debt statute, then the law requires that the Department promulgate that rule
pursuant to the notice and hearing provisions of Indiana Code Section 6-8.1-3-3.
See Ind. Code § 6-8.1-3-3.