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Third District Upholds Summary Adjudication Of Unexhausted Tax Challenge

On June 1, 2021, WVBR successfully defended on appeal a judgment on behalf of the California State Board of Equalization on a long running dispute between the Board and Verizon California over the taxation of Verizon’s telephone system in California. For each tax year from 2008 through 2012, Verizon filed a petition challenging the Board’s assessed value for its property. During the administrative process, Verizon and Board staff reached agreement on a revised value to be submitted to the Board for approval. The Board granted the joint recommendation each year, but Verizon later sued anyway seeking a refund based on even lower values than it had agreed to accept. The resulting lawsuit sought hundreds of millions of dollars in reduced value, which would have required refunds from most California counties. The Sacramento Superior Court granted summary adjudication, finding that Verizon had failed to exhaust its claims for these years.

In a unanimous published opinion, the Third District affirmed. The Court held that there was no exhaustion because no disputed issues of value were presented to the Board for decision. “[S]ince Verizon agreed to the reduced assessments, set forth in the joint recommendations and approved by the Board, Verizon had no ‘disputes’ with the Board regarding assessed valuation.” The appeal was handled and argued on behalf of the City by WVBR partner Michael von Loewenfeldt. The case is Verizon California Inc. v. State Board of Equalization, C083537. A copy of the Court’s opinion can be found here.