Chevron U.S.A. v. Department of Revenue, No. 06-50.

CourtWyoming Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtKite
Citation2007 WY 43,154 P.3d 331
Docket NumberNo. 06-50.
Decision Date14 March 2007
PartiesCHEVRON U.S.A., INC., Appellant (Petitioner), v. DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, State of Wyoming, Appellee (Respondent).
154 P.3d 331
2007 WY 43
CHEVRON U.S.A., INC., Appellant (Petitioner),
v.
DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, State of Wyoming, Appellee (Respondent).
No. 06-50.
Supreme Court of Wyoming.
March 14, 2007.

[154 P.3d 332]

Representing Appellant: William J. Thomson II, Randall B. Reed, Brian J. Hanify, and Gregory C. Dyekman of Dray, Thomson & Dyekman, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Dyekman.

Representing Appellee: Patrick J. Crank, Attorney General; Michael L. Hubbard, Deputy Attorney General; Martin L. Hardsocg, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and Karl D. Anderson, Senior Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Mr. Anderson.

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, and BURKE, JJ.

KITE, Justice.


[¶ 1] The State Board of Equalization (SBOE) denied Chevron U.S.A., Inc.'s (Chevron) appeal from a notice of valuation (NOV) for its Carter Creek natural gas production, concluding it had no jurisdiction because the appeal was filed more than thirty days after the Department of Revenue (DOR) decision was postmarked, in contravention of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-14-209(b)(iv) (LexisNexis 2005).1 Chevron claimed the state's postage meter stamp was not a "postmark" as provided by the statute, and thus, its time for appeal had not expired because the thirty day period had not been triggered. Chevron petitioned the district court for review of the SBOE decision, and the district court affirmed the agency's findings and conclusions.

154 P.3d 333

Chevron then filed a timely appeal of the district court's decision to this Court. We hold the SBOE properly interpreted the applicable statute and dismissed Chevron's appeal for lack of jurisdiction, and, therefore, affirm.

ISSUES

[¶ 2] Chevron presents the following issues on appeal:

1. Did the Wyoming State Board of Equalization err, as a matter of law, by concluding that a private postage meter stamp was a "postmark," as that term is used in Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-14-209(b)(iv) and in the Board's rules and regulations?

2. Was Chevron, U.S.A., Inc., denied due process by the Board of Equalization's refusal to accept Chevron's appeal?

3. Did the Board of Equalization fail to observe procedures required by law?

The DOR phrases the issue as:

[Was] appellant's [] administrative tax appeal[] properly dismissed due to [its] untimely filing[]?

FACTS

[¶ 3] In 2003, Chevron produced natural gas from its Carter Creek field in Uinta County, Wyoming. Pursuant to Wyoming's self-reporting mineral tax system, Chevron reported its production and determined the value of that production using the proportionate profits method, one of the methods authorized by § 39-14-203(b)(vi). The DOR reviewed Chevron's report, concluded a different method of valuation was appropriate for Chevron's circumstances and issued an NOV based on the comparable value method, also authorized by the statute. The NOV was dated May 24, 2004, and sent to Chevron's Houston, Texas address in an envelope bearing a stamp dated May 25, 2004, from the state's "Pitney Bowes" postage meter. On June 30, 2004, thirty-six days later, Chevron filed a notice of appeal with the SBOE challenging the NOV.

[¶ 4] Section 39-14-209(b)(iv) requires that the DOR notify the taxpayer of the assessed value by mail and allows the taxpayer to object to the DOR's notification "within thirty (30) days of the date of postmark ...." In addition, § 39-14-209(b)(i) provides all appeals to the SBOE "shall be made in a timely manner as provided by rules and regulations of the board ...." The rules adopted by the SBOE require taxpayers to file any objections within thirty days of the final decision or the date the final administrative decision is mailed as evidenced by a postmark, whichever is later. Rules, Wyoming State Board of Equalization, Ch. 2, § 5(e) and (f). Concluding the appeal had not been filed within the thirty day time limit established by § 39-14-209(b)(iv) and the rules, the SBOE issued a notice indicating its intent to dismiss it for lack of jurisdiction unless either Chevron or the DOR filed a written objection. Chevron filed an objection on July 19, 2004, and the matter was set for hearing on July 22, 2004.

[¶ 5] At the hearing, Chevron contended the statute and the SBOE rules required that an appeal be filed thirty days after the NOV was "postmarked" and a private postage meter stamp did not constitute a "postmark" as intended by the legislature. Consequently, Chevron asserted the time for appeal had not been triggered when the DOR mailed the NOV utilizing the state's private postage meter. Chevron introduced into evidence the envelope in which the NOV had been sent with a Pitney Bowes stamp date of May 25, 2004, and a Chevron stamp indicating receipt on June 2, 2004, eight days later.

[¶ 6] In addition, Chevron called DOR employee, Pat Parsoneault, who was responsible for issuing the NOV. He described the agency's procedure for processing NOVs, which included placing them in the DOR mailroom the day after they were approved to be picked up by the state's central mail system. Mr. Parsoneault testified it was his understanding that the central mail office placed the postage meter stamp on the mail items and placed them in the U.S. postal system. He also testified the DOR had utilized this process during the entire sixteen years he had been employed by the agency; he was unaware of any time the state's central mail system did not put the mail into the U.S. postal system; and he had no knowledge of anyone from the DOR ever asking the state's central mail system to hold back

154 P.3d 334

any items which had been mailed. Chevron submitted no evidence and made no contention suggesting either the DOR or the state central mail service had improperly delayed depositing the NOV in the U.S. postal system. In response to a board member's comment, Chevron agreed the eight day period between May 25 and June 2 included a three day weekend occasioned by a national holiday when the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) did not deliver mail.

[¶ 7] The DOR did not dispute that Chevron received the NOV on June 2, eight days after it was mailed. Instead, the DOR simply contended the statutory term "postmark" includes the stamp made by the private postage meter utilized by the state; Chevron did not file its appeal within thirty days of the postage meter date; and, consequently, the SBOE had no jurisdiction to consider the appeal. After the hearing, at the SBOE's request, Chevron filed affidavits describing how incoming mail is handled in its offices and stamped on the date of receipt. The SBOE dismissed Chevron's appeal reasoning that "postmark," as the term is used in § 39-14-209(b)(iv), includes a private postage meter stamp.

[¶ 8] Contending the hearing had been unfair because the DOR had filed no pleadings indicating its legal position prior to the hearing and Chevron, therefore, had been unable to respond to its arguments, Chevron filed a petition for reconsideration. In addition, Chevron requested an opportunity to provide additional evidence in response to the SBOE order's reference to the lack of any evidence showing the normal time for mail delivery from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Houston, Texas. Finding no irregularity in the proceedings, the SBOE denied the petition for reconsideration. Chevron petitioned the district court for review of the SBOE order, and the district court affirmed the SBOE. Chevron appealed to this Court.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶ 9] Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 16-3-114 (LexisNexis 2005) governs judicial review of administrative decisions. State ex rel. Dep't of Revenue v. Buggy Bath Unlimited, Inc., 2001 WY 27, ¶ 5, 18 P.3d 1182, 1185 (Wyo. 2001); Everheart v. S & L Indus., 957 P.2d 847, 851 (Wyo.1998). Questions of statutory interpretation are matters of law and are reviewed de novo. Powder River Coal Co. v. Wyo. Dep't of Rev., 2006 WY 137, ¶ 9, 145 P.3d 442, 446 (Wyo.2006); Wyo. Dep't of Revenue v. Guthrie, 2005 WY 79, ¶ 13, 115 P.3d 1086, 1091 (Wyo.2005).

DISCUSSION

[¶ 10] To resolve this matter, we must interpret the statutory term "postmark." In doing so, we strive to give effect to the intent of the legislature. We look first to the plain meaning of the language chosen by the legislature and employ well-accepted rules of statutory construction if that language is ambiguous or capable of varying interpretations. Powder River Coal Co. v. Wyoming State Bd. of Equalization, 2002 WY 5, ¶ 6, 38 P.3d at 426 (Wyo. 2002).

[¶ 11] The term "postmark" is not defined in the statute. The plain meaning of the term connotes a mark placed on a mailed item. Black's Law Dictionary defines the term as "an official mark put by the post office on an item of mail to cancel the stamp and to indicate the place and date of sending or receipt." Black's Law Dictionary 1205 (8th ed.2004). Webster's New World Dictionary 113 (2d ed.1986) similarly defines the term as "a post-office mark stamped on a piece of mail, canceling the postage stamp and recording the date and place of sending or receiving." The DOR argues, and the SBOE reasoned, that a private postage meter stamp meets these definitions of "postmark" when considered in accordance with USPS regulations and guidelines.

[¶ 12] USPS publications do not contain any definition of the term "postmark;" however, they do explain how privately metered mail is authorized and regulated. See United States Postal Service Domestic Mail Manual, § 604 et. seq. (Manual) (updated February 2, 2006, 39 C.F.R. §§ 111.1-111.5 (1991)); and United States Postal Service Glossary of Postal Terms 71, 86. The USPS licenses private parties to use postage meters manufactured by certain companies, including Pitney Bowes, Inc., to place a mark on

154 P.3d 335

mailed items indicating postage has been paid, provided the licensees agree to abide by all the rules and regulations governing the use of the meters. Manual, §§ 142.2, 604.2. The purpose of the mark imprinted by the USPS on mailed items canceling government-issued postage...

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  • Ultra Res. Inc. A Wyo. Corp. v. Doyle, No. S-08-0258
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 23, 2010
    ...of law, reviewed de novo. Cook v. Swires, 2009 WY 21, ¶ 17, 202 P.3d 397, 402 (Wyo.2009); Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Dep't of Revenue, 2007 WY 43, ¶¶ 9-10, 13, 154 P.3d 331, 334-35 (Wyo.2007). [¶ 70] The WRPA is intended to “ ‘stop oil [and gas] producers from retaining other people's money fo......
  • McCallister v. State (In re Worker's Comp. Claim Of), S-18-0142
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 7, 2019
    ...matter of venue. We do not interpret statutes in a manner that produces an absurd result. Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Dep’t of Rev., 2007 WY 43, ¶ 18, 154 P.3d 331, 336-37 (Wyo. 2007). Rule 12.01 confirms the legislature is responsible for making judicial review available and the rules do not a......
  • Travelocity.Com LP v. Wyo. Dep't of Revenue, No. S–13–0078.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 3, 2014
    ...cases deal with extension of taxing statutes by implication. The basic rule was restated in Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Dep't of Revenue, 2007 WY 43, 154 P.3d 331 (Wyo.2007): In the interpretation of statutes levying taxes it is the established rule not to extend their provisions, by implicatio......
  • State, Dept. of Corrections v. Watts, No. S-07-0050.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 22, 2008
    ...interpret the statutory language. "Questions of statutory interpretation are matters of law." Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Dep't of Revenue, 2007 WY 43, ¶ 10, 154 P.3d 331, 334 (Wyo.2007), citing Powder River Coal Co. v. Wyo. Dept. of Revenue, 2006 WY 137, ¶ 9, 145 P.3d 442, 446 (Wyo. 2006). In ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
29 cases
  • Ultra Res. Inc. A Wyo. Corp. v. Doyle, No. S-08-0258
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 23, 2010
    ...of law, reviewed de novo. Cook v. Swires, 2009 WY 21, ¶ 17, 202 P.3d 397, 402 (Wyo.2009); Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Dep't of Revenue, 2007 WY 43, ¶¶ 9-10, 13, 154 P.3d 331, 334-35 (Wyo.2007). [¶ 70] The WRPA is intended to “ ‘stop oil [and gas] producers from retaining other people's money fo......
  • McCallister v. State (In re Worker's Comp. Claim Of), S-18-0142
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 7, 2019
    ...matter of venue. We do not interpret statutes in a manner that produces an absurd result. Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Dep’t of Rev., 2007 WY 43, ¶ 18, 154 P.3d 331, 336-37 (Wyo. 2007). Rule 12.01 confirms the legislature is responsible for making judicial review available and the rules do not a......
  • Travelocity.Com LP v. Wyo. Dep't of Revenue, No. S–13–0078.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 3, 2014
    ...cases deal with extension of taxing statutes by implication. The basic rule was restated in Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Dep't of Revenue, 2007 WY 43, 154 P.3d 331 (Wyo.2007): In the interpretation of statutes levying taxes it is the established rule not to extend their provisions, by implicatio......
  • State, Dept. of Corrections v. Watts, No. S-07-0050.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 22, 2008
    ...interpret the statutory language. "Questions of statutory interpretation are matters of law." Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Dep't of Revenue, 2007 WY 43, ¶ 10, 154 P.3d 331, 334 (Wyo.2007), citing Powder River Coal Co. v. Wyo. Dept. of Revenue, 2006 WY 137, ¶ 9, 145 P.3d 442, 446 (Wyo. 2006). In ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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