Hart v. Idaho State Tax Comm'n, Docket No. 38756

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho
Writing for the CourtJ. JONES
Decision Date26 April 2012
PartiesPHILIP L. HART, Petitioner-Appellant, v. IDAHO STATE TAX COMMISSION and IDAHO BOARD OF TAX APPEALS, Respondents.
Docket NumberDocket No. 38756,2012 Opinion No. 70

PHILIP L. HART, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
IDAHO STATE TAX COMMISSION and IDAHO BOARD OF TAX APPEALS, Respondents.

Docket No. 38756
2012 Opinion No. 70

SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF IDAHO

Boise, April 2012 Term
Filed: April 26, 2012


Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. John T. Mitchell, District Judge.

The decision of the district court is affirmed.

Starr Kelso, Coeur d'Alene, argued for appellant.

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General, Boise, for respondents. William A. Von Tagen argued.

J. JONES, Justice.

This case involves Philip L. Hart's appeal of an Idaho Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) decision. Hart appealed two State Tax Commission Notice of Deficiency determinations to the BTA. The BTA found Hart's appeal untimely and therefore dismissed it. Hart appealed to the district court, which likewise found his BTA appeal untimely and dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. We affirm the district court.

I.
BACKGROUND

The State Tax Commission (Commission) issued Hart two Notice of Deficiency (NOD) determinations on September 4, 2008. One NOD covered tax years 1996 through 1998 and the other was for 1999 through 2004. The Commission issued separate NODs because Hart paid no income taxes for the years 1996 through 1998. He apparently paid some taxes, but less than he

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owed, for 1999 through 2004. Hart protested the NODs and requested that the Commission make a redetermination, contending he had no outstanding tax liability. Hart also requested an informal hearing before the Commission, which he delayed until July 2009. After the hearing, and after Hart's further delay and failure to provide additional relevant information in support of his protest, the Commission issued a decision on September 30, 2009, affirming and finalizing the NODs. Hart acknowledged receiving the Commission's final decision on October 2, 2009. The Commission's final decision indicated that Hart owed $53,523 for unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest for tax years 1996 through 2004. On December 31, 2009, Hart wrote the Commission, stating that he intended to appeal the NODs after the Idaho Legislature's 2010 session. Hart is a member of the Idaho State Legislature and he asserted that he therefore had a right to defer his appeal.

On March 30, 2010, Hart sent a letter to the BTA entitled "Notice of Appeal to the Board of Tax Appeals." Included with that letter were two checks, totaling $9,462.04, which Hart tendered as a portion of the cash bond necessary for his BTA appeal. Hart recognized, however, that his outstanding tax liability, as specified in the NODs, required a bond greater than he submitted. Hart thus asked the BTA to "consider [his] letter [a] promise to pay the remaining [amount]." Hart's March 30 letter did not include any specific objections to the Commission's findings, but it did state that he would submit arguments in a subsequent filing. On March 31, 2010, Hart sent another letter to the BTA entitled "Notice of Appeal to the Idaho Board of Tax Appeals." That letter included Hart's objections to the NODs. The BTA, upon motion from the Commission, determined it lacked jurisdiction because it found Hart's appeal untimely. The BTA denied Hart's motion for reconsideration of the dismissal on September 24, 2010.

On October 22, 2010, Hart filed an appeal of the BTA decision. The district court, upon motion by the Commission, likewise determined it lacked jurisdiction, finding Hart's BTA appeal untimely. Hart filed a motion for reconsideration, which the court denied. Hart then filed this appeal and asks this Court to determine whether the district court erred in dismissing his petition for lack of jurisdiction. He also contends the district court erred when it denied his motion to reschedule a hearing on his motion to reconsider.

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II.
ANALYSIS

A. The district court lacked jurisdiction to consider Hart's petition.

On appeal, Hart contends that the district court employed an improper analysis to determine it lacked jurisdiction. The Commission and BTA respond that, regardless of how the court articulated the standard it used, the court had broad authority to determine whether it had jurisdiction.

In every appeal, this Court must satisfy itself that the district court had jurisdiction. See State v. Johnson, 152 Idaho 41, 47, 266 P.3d 1146, 1152 (2011). The Court is free to consider the question of subject matter jurisdiction even if the district court employed an improper analysis, or no analysis, on the issue. See id. Before a district court may exercise judicial review of an agency decision, there must be a statute granting a right of review. See In re City of Shelley, 151 Idaho 289, 292, 255 P.3d 1175, 1178 (2011). Idaho Code § 63-3812(a) provides taxpayers aggrieved by a BTA decision the right to petition the district court for review, in accordance with I.R.C.P. 84. However, "[p]ursuit of statutory administrative remedies is a condition precedent to judicial review." Park v. Banbury, 143 Idaho 576, 578, 149 P.3d 851, 853 (2006). A party seeking judicial review must "run the full gamut of administrative proceedings before an application for judicial relief may be considered." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). To fully avail oneself of administrative proceedings, one must necessarily timely file and perfect his or her appeal. A taxpayer may appeal decisions of the Commission by filing an appeal from an NOD with the BTA within ninety-one days after receiving the NOD.1 I.C. § 63-3049(a). If the BTA had no opportunity to review the taxpayer's appeal, there is no administrative decision for the district court to review and that court lacks jurisdiction.

Here, Hart acknowledged receipt of the Commission's decision affirming and finalizing the NODs on October 2, 2009. Hart had until January 1, 2010—ninety-one days after receiving the Commission's final decision—to file his appeal with the BTA. Because January 1 was a holiday, and the next two days were weekend days, the BTA determined the appeal deadline to be Monday, January 4, 2010. It is undisputed that Hart sent his first "Notice of Appeal to the

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Board of Tax Appeals" on March 30, 2010, nearly three months late. In the BTA, Hart asserted that his untimely filing was excused because Article III, § 7 of the Idaho Constitution tolled the statutory ninety-one day time limit as to him. According to Hart, legislative immunity saved him from having to file an appeal during the legislative session and the ten days...

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