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DEPARTMENT OF STATE REVENUE
04-20110633.LOF

Letter of Findings: 04-20110633
Sales and Use Tax
For the Years 2008, 2009, 2010


NOTICE: Under IC § 4-22-7-7, this document is required to be published in the Indiana Register and is effective on its date of publication. It shall remain in effect until the date it is superseded or deleted by the publication of a new document in the Indiana Register. The publication of the document will provide the general public with information about the Department's official position concerning a specific issue.
ISSUE
I. Sales and Use Tax – Imposition.
Authority: IC § 6-2.5-1-2; IC § 6-2.5-2-1; IC § 6-2.5-3-1; IC § 6-2.5-3-2; IC § 6-2.5-3-4; IC § 6-2.5-4-1; IC § 6-2.5-5-8; IC § 6-8.1-5-1; IC § 6-8.1-5-4; 45 IAC 2.2-3-20; 45 IAC 2.2-5-8; 45 IAC 2.2-5-15; Lafayette Square Amoco, Inc. v. Indiana Dep't of State Revenue, 867 N.E.2d 289 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2007); Indiana Dep't of State Revenue v. Rent-A-Center East, Inc., 963 N.E.2d 463 (Ind. 2012); Rhoade v. Indiana Dep't of State Revenue, 774 N.E.2d 1044 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2002); USAir, Inc. v. Indiana Dep't of State Revenue, 623 N.E.2d 466 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1993); Indiana Dep't of State Revenue v. Kimball Int'l Inc., 520 N.E.2d 454 (Ind. Ct. App. 1988); Tri-States Double Cola Bottling Co. v. Dep't of State Revenue, 706 N.E.2d 282 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1999); Mynsberge v. Indiana Dep't of State Revenue, 716 N.E.2d 629 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1999); Indiana Dep't of State Revenue, Sales Tax Division v. RCA Corp., 310 N.E.2d 96 (Ind. Ct. App. 1974); Indiana Dep't. of Revenue v. Interstate Warehousing, 783 N.E.2d 248 (Ind. 2003);
Taxpayer protests the imposition of additional use tax.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
Taxpayer owns farm land and residential property which is leased to individual tenants. Taxpayer also rents construction equipment to a related entity. The Indiana Department of Revenue ("Department") conducted a sales and use tax audit of Taxpayer for the years 2008 through 2010. As a result of the audit Taxpayer was assessed additional use tax and related interest. Taxpayer protested the assessments. A hearing was held and this Letter of Findings ensues. Additional facts will be presented as needed.
I. Sales and Use Tax – Imposition.
DISCUSSION
During the audit period Taxpayer purchased a Caterpillar Multi Terrain Loader and a Komatsu Excavator that were delivered to Taxpayer in Indiana. No sales or use tax was paid on these purchases. Taxpayer states that both these items were purchased with the intention of renting them to a related company ("Related"). According to the Department's Audit Summary, Taxpayer did not provide the auditor documentation to substantiate Taxpayer's claims related to these two items. According to the Audit Summary:
The taxpayer stated that an incorrect description of the loader appeared on the billing invoices to [Related] and that they had forgotten to bill that company for rentals of the excavator. In addition, they stated that the income from the excavator rentals would be placed on the company's books in 2011, but the excavator sold in 2010.
In making the assessment, the audit cited to 45 IAC 2.2-3-20 which states in part that all purchases of tangible personal property which are delivered to the purchaser for storage, use, or consumption in Indiana are subject to Indiana use tax. The terrain loader was purchased in 2008 and the excavator was purchased in 2009 and they were both used in Indiana.
As a threshold issue, all tax assessments are prima facie evidence that the Department's assessment of tax is presumed correct. "The burden of proving that the proposed assessment is wrong rests with the person against whom the proposed assessment is made." IC § 6-8.1-5-1(c); Lafayette Square Amoco, Inc. v. Indiana Dep't of State Revenue, 867 N.E.2d 289, 292 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2007); Indiana Dep't. of State Revenue v. Rent-A-Center East, Inc., 963 N.E.2d 463, 466 (Ind. 2012).
Indiana imposes an excise tax called "the state gross retail tax" (or "sales tax") on retail transactions made in Indiana. IC § 6-2.5-2-1(a). A person who acquires property in a retail transaction (a "retail purchaser") is liable for the sales tax on the transaction. IC § 6-2.5-2-1(b). Indiana also imposes a complementary excise tax called "the use tax" on "the storage, use, or consumption of tangible personal property in Indiana if the property was acquired in a retail transaction, regardless of the location of that transaction or of the retail merchant making that transaction." IC § 6-2.5-3-2(a). "Use" means the "exercise of any right or power of ownership over tangible personal property." IC § 6-2.5-3-1(a). The use tax is functionally equivalent to the sales tax. See Rhoade v. Indiana Dep't of State Revenue, 774 N.E.2d 1044, 1047 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2002).
By complementing the sales tax, the use tax ensures that non-exempt retail transactions (particularly out-of-state retail transactions) that escape sales tax liability are nevertheless taxed. Id.; USAir, Inc. v. Indiana Dep't of State Revenue, 623 N.E.2d 466, 468–69 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1993). The use tax ensures that, after such goods arrive in Indiana, the retail purchasers of the goods bear their fair share of the tax burden. To trigger imposition of Indiana's use tax, tangible personal property must (as a threshold matter) be acquired in a retail transaction. Id. A taxable retail transaction occurs when (1) a party acquires tangible personal property as part of its ordinary business for the purpose of reselling the property; (2) that property is then exchanged between parties for consideration; and (3) the property is used in Indiana. See IC § 6-2.5-1-2; IC § 6-2.5-4-1(b), (c); IC § 6-2.5-3-2(a).
Generally, all purchases of tangible personal property by persons engaged in the direct production, manufacture, fabrication, assembly, or finishing of tangible personal property are taxable. 45 IAC 2.2-5-8(a). A statute which provides a tax exemption, however, is strictly construed against the taxpayer. Indiana Dep't. of State Revenue, Sales Tax Division v. RCA Corp., 310 N.E.2d 96, 97 (Ind. Ct. App. 1974). "[W]here such an exemption is claimed, the party claiming the same must show a case, by sufficient evidence, which is clearly within the exact letter of the law." Id. at 101. Thus, in applying any tax exemption, the general rule is that "tax exemptions are strictly construed in favor of taxation and against the exemption." Indiana Dep't of State Revenue v. Kimball Int'l Inc., 520 N.E.2d 454, 456 (Ind. Ct. App. 1988). The exemptions to which Taxpayer aspires like all tax exemption provisions, is strictly construed against exemption from the tax. Tri-States Double Cola Bottling Co. v. Dep't of State Revenue, 706 N.E.2d 282, 283 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1999); Mynsberge v. Indiana Dep't of State Revenue, 716 N.E.2d 629, 636 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1999).
The person who acquires property in a retail transaction is liable for the sales tax on the transaction and, unless exempt, shall pay the tax to the retail merchant. The retail merchant shall collect the tax as agent for the state. IC § 6-2.5-2-1(b). If the Department reasonably believes that a person has not reported the proper amount of tax due, the Department shall make a proposed assessment of the amount of the unpaid tax on the basis of the best information available to the Department. IC § 6-8.1-5-1(a). Every person subject to a listed tax must keep books and records so that the Department can determine the amount, if any, of the person's liability for that tax by reviewing those books and records. IC § 6-8.1-5-4(a). A person must allow inspection of the books and records and returns by the Department or its authorized agents at all reasonable times. IC § 6-8.1-5-4(c).
IC § 6-2.5-3-4(a)(2) allows for a use tax exemption for tangible personal property that is acquired in a transaction that is exempt from sales tax under IC § 6-2.5-5, and the property is being stored, used, or consumed for the purpose for which it was exempted. One of those exemptions is found at IC 6-2.5-5-8(b) which states that,
Transactions involving tangible personal property are exempt from the state gross retail tax if the person acquiring the property acquires it for resale, rental, or leasing in the ordinary course of his business without changing the form of the property.
The rental exemption set out in IC § 6-2.5-5-8 is further explained in 45 IAC 2.2-5-15, which states:
(a) The state gross retail tax shall not apply to sales of any tangible personal property to a purchaser who purchases the same for the purpose of reselling, renting or leasing, in the regular course of the purchaser's business, such tangible personal property in the form in which it is sold to such purchaser.
(b) General rule. Sales of tangible personal property for resale, renting or leasing are exempt from tax if all of the following conditions are satisfied:
(1) The tangible personal property is sold to a purchaser who purchases this property to resell, rent or lease it;
(2) The purchaser is occupationally engaged in reselling, renting or leasing such property in the regular course of his business; and
(3) The property is resold, rented or leased in the same form in which it was purchased.
This exemption, therefore, requires compliance with three elements. One of these requirements is that the Taxpayer must be engaged in the reselling, renting, or leasing of such property in its regular course of business.
When any taxpayer claims it is entitled to a tax exemption, it bears the burden of proving that the terms of the exemption have been met. Indiana Dep't. of Revenue v. Interstate Warehousing, 783 N.E.2d 248, 250 (Ind. 2003). The Department will strictly construe the exemption statutes against the taxpayer claiming the exemption. Id.
If Taxpayer bought the vehicles at issue for the purpose of leasing them to Related, Taxpayer would not be required to pay sales tax on the purchases of the vehicles because Taxpayer would have bought the vehicles for resale/leasing which is exempt.
Taxpayer explains that the vehicles in question were mistakenly capitalized on Related's books and as a result Taxpayer failed to collect sales tax on the lease stream. Taxpayer does not disagree that it should have collected sales tax on the lease stream. Taxpayer states that the internal records of both Taxpayer and Related will be adjusted to reflect the leasing arrangement and the collection of sales tax on the lease stream.
For the purpose of this protest, Taxpayer purchased the implicated vehicles without paying sales or use tax on the purchases and use of these vehicles. Furthermore, Taxpayer did not provide evidence of a leasing arrangement with Related. How Taxpayer adjusts its business operations and records going forward – several years after the equipment was purchased – is irrelevant to the years at issue.
The Department's audit correctly assessed tax on the implicated transactions.
FINDING
Taxpayer's protest is respectfully denied.

Posted: 10/31/2012 by Legislative Services Agency

DIN: 20121031-IR-045120560NRA
Composed: Dec 18,2014 3:38:05AM EST
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