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Harris Corporation v. Arizona Department of Revenue

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

November 26, 2013

HARRIS CORPORATION and CONSOLIDATED SUBSIDIARIES Plaintiffs/Appellants,
v.
ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, Defendant/Appellee.

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. TX2007-000280 The Honorable Dean M. Fink, Judge

Steptoe & Johnson, LLP, Phoenix By Pat Derdenger, Bennett Evan Cooper Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants

Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix By Kimberly Cygan Counsel for Defendant/Appellee

Bade Baskin Richards, PLC, Tempe By William A. Richards And Multistate Tax Commission, Washington, D.C. By Shirley Sicilian and Bruce J. Fort Counsel for Amicus Curiae Multistate Tax Commission

Presiding Judge John C. Gemmill delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Judge Margaret H. Downie and Judge Peter B. Swann joined.

OPINION

GEMMILL, Judge

¶1 The issue in this corporate taxation case is whether certain income constitutes "business income" or "nonbusiness income" under Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") section 43-1131. The definition of "business income" in A.R.S. § 43-1131(1) is set forth in two clauses. We hold that Arizona may tax corporate income as "business income" if the income satisfies either definitional clause. Because the tax court correctly applied the statute to the facts, we affirm the tax court's grant of summary judgment to the Arizona Department of Revenue (the "Department").

BACKGROUND

¶2 Harris Corporation ("Harris") is a Delaware corporation with its executive offices in Melbourne, Florida. It provides voice, data, and video telecommunications products and related services.

¶3 Harris and its subsidiaries ("Taxpayer") elected to file Arizona corporate income tax returns on a consolidated basis [1] pursuant to A.R.S. § 43-947(A) for tax years June 30, 1997 to June 30, 2001. Those returns reflect three categories of income at issue herein: (1) gains recognized on the contribution of assets to a joint venture with General Electric; (2) proceeds from the sale of the Lanier Medical Transcription business line; and (3) royalties received from patent rights acquired by Harris and held by Harris Semiconductor Patents, Inc. ("Harris Semiconductor"), along with income from the sale of stock and other assets by Harris subsidiaries engaging in investment activities.

¶4 On its consolidated Arizona returns, Taxpayer treated the income, expenses, and losses from its business operations as "business income" but treated gains on the dispositions in question as "non-business income." Following an audit, the Department issued a notice of proposed assessment. Taxpayer protested, and appealed to the Arizona Tax Court in accordance with A.R.S. § 42-1254(C). The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on whether the proceeds of the transactions qualified as business income. The tax court granted summary judgment in favor of the Department and filed a formal judgment. Taxpayer timely appeals.

ANALYSIS

I. A.R.S. § 43-1131(1) Provides Two Alternative Clauses Describing "Business Income"

¶5 This court reviews the tax court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Citizens Telecomm. Co. of White Mountains v. Ariz. Dep't of Revenue, 206 Ariz. 33, 38, ¶ 20, 75 P.3d 123, 128 (App. 2003). We also apply the de novo standard when reviewing the tax court's interpretation of statutes. M.D.C. Holdings, Inc. v. State ex rel. Ariz. Dep't of Revenue, 222 Ariz. 462, 467, ¶ 12, 216 P.3d 1208, 1213 (App. 2009).

¶6 Arizona imposes a corporate income tax "upon the entire Arizona taxable income of every corporation." A.R.S. § 43-1111; see A.R.S. § 43-102(A)(5) (corporations are subject to Arizona tax on income earned from sources within the state). When corporations conduct activities in multiple states, income must be apportioned or allocated among various states. In an effort to properly account for the income of such corporations, the Arizona Legislature enacted a modified version of the Uniform Division of Income for Tax Purposes Act ("UDITPA") in 1983. A.R.S. §§ 43-1131 to -1150; see Walgreen Arizona Drug Co. v. Arizona Dep't of Revenue, 209 Ariz. 71, 72, ¶ 7, 97 P.3d 896, 897 (App. 2004). Under UDITPA, business income is "generally 'apportioned' between the states in which the corporation does business using a formula defined in the statutes." Arizona Dep't of Revenue v. Cent. Newspapers, Inc., 222 Ariz. 626, 629, ¶ 12, 218 P.3d 1083, 1086 (App. 2009) (citing A.R.S. § 43-1139(A)). In contrast, "certain nonbusiness income is 'allocated' to designated states, based on factors such as the location of property and the taxpayer's commercial domicile." Id. (citing A.R.S. §§ 43-1134 to -1138).

¶7 UDITPA apportions business income to this state through a formula for multi-state corporations using their property, sales, and payroll. Walgreen, 209 Ariz. at 72, ¶¶ 7-8, 97 P.3d at 897. Arizona allocates nonbusiness income, such as capital gains from the sale of intangible property and interest income, to the state in which the taxpayer is domiciled. A.R.S. §§ 43-1136(C), 43-1137; see generally 1 Jerome R. Hellerstein et al., State Taxation ¶ 9.01, at 9-7 n.2 (3d ed. 2009) (hereinafter "Hellerstein") ("'allocation' refers to the attribution of a particular type of income to a designated state, whereas 'apportionment' refers to the division of the tax base by formula"). Other nonbusiness income, such as net rents, royalties, and capital gains from the sale of real or tangible personal property, is allocated to the state where the property is located. A.R.S. §§ 43-1135(A), (B), 43-1136(A), (B).

¶8 Section 43-1131, A.R.S., defines "business income" and "nonbusiness income" as follows:

As used in this article, unless the context otherwise requires:
1. "Business income" means income arising from transactions and activity in the regular course of the taxpayer's trade or business and includes income from tangible and intangible property if the acquisition, management and disposition of the property constitute integral parts of the taxpayer's regular trade or business operations.
4. "Nonbusiness income" means all income other than business income.

¶9 The courts in several states adopting these UDITPA definitions have recognized that "business income" includes two alternative definitional clauses: the so-called "transactional" test from the first clause ("income arising from transactions and activity in the regular course of the taxpayer's trade or business"), and the so-called "functional" test from the second clause ("income from tangible and intangible property if the acquisition, management and disposition of the property constitute integral parts of the taxpayer's regular trade or business operations"). See, e.g., Texaco-Cities Serv. Pipeline Co. v. McGraw, 695 N.E.2d 481, 484 (Ill. 1998) (addressing definition of business income essentially identical to A.R.S. § 43-1131(1)). Because a number of courts and various commentators utilize these descriptors, we will also use them for convenience as shorthand references to the respective clauses of § 43-1131(1). We emphasize, however, that proper interpretation of § 43-1131(1) is based on the statutory language and not on the labels applied by others. And we caution against ...


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