Jones v. Director of Revenue, 74487

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri
Citation832 S.W.2d 516
Docket NumberNo. 74487,74487
PartiesRichard L. JONES, Appellant, v. DIRECTOR OF REVENUE, Respondent.
Decision Date02 June 1992

Emory Melton, Cassville, for appellant.

William Webster, Atty. Gen., Christopher A. Koster, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, for respondent.

COVINGTON, Judge.

Richard L. Jones filed a petition before the Administrative Hearing Commission seeking a redetermination of the Director of Revenue's final decision that Mr. Jones is not due a refund of sales tax under § 144.071, RSMo Supp.1991. The Director moved for summary judgment; Mr. Jones also moved for summary judgment. The Commission sustained the Director's motion and overruled Jones' motion. Mr. Jones appealed. The decision of the Commission is affirmed.

The facts are not in dispute. Mr. Jones purchased a boat, trailer, and two outboard motors from Bass Pro Shops of Springfield. The items of tangible, personal property were new, not previously owned. Mr. Jones made payment and received possession of all items on March 26, 1991. On May 16, 1991, Jones paid sales tax in the amount of $480.47 on the purchases and applied for Missouri certificates of title and registration on each item. The Director issued marine certificates of title to Jones for the boat and two motors on June 7, 1991. The Director issued a certificate of title for the trailer on June 13, 1991.

The boat was defective. After failed attempts to repair the boat, Mr. Jones rescinded the purchase and returned the boat, motors, and trailer to the seller on July 30, 1991. On that date the seller refunded to Jones $10,613.96. On August 8, 1991, Mr. Jones filed a claim for a refund of state and local sales tax. The Director denied the claim on August 30, 1991. Jones then filed his petition before the Commission. The Commission denied Mr. Jones' petition, and this appeal followed.

The issue is whether Mr. Jones is due a refund of sales tax. The question must be resolved by reference to § 144.071, RSMo Supp.1991, which sets forth the procedure under authority of which the Director refunds sales tax paid on a purchase that is later rescinded:

1. In all cases where the purchaser of a motor vehicle, trailer, boat or outboard motor rescinds the sale of that motor vehicle, trailer, boat or outboard motor and receives a refund of the purchase price and returns the motor vehicle, trailer, boat or outboard motor to the seller within sixty calendar days from the date of the sale, the sales or use tax paid to the department of revenue shall be refunded to the purchaser upon proper application to the director of revenue.

Section 144.071.1 (emphasis added).

Section 144.010.1(7), RSMo 1991, defines "sale" within the sales and use tax provisions as "... any transfer, exchange or barter, conditional or otherwise, in any manner or by any means whatsoever, of tangible personal property for valuable consideration...." 1

The parties agree that § 144.071.1 provides that a purchaser is entitled to a refund of sales tax paid on a motor vehicle, trailer, boat, or outboard motor only if the purchaser returns the property to the seller within sixty days from the date of sale. The parties disagree, however, as to when the sale occurred. Mr. Jones contends that the sale occurred on the dates the Director issued certificates of title for the property. The Director asserts that the sale occurred on March 26, 1991, when Jones gave value for and received possession of the goods.

The primary rule of statutory construction requires this Court to ascertain the intent of the legislature by considering the plain and ordinary meaning of the words used in the statute. Union Elec. Co. v. Director of Revenue, 799 S.W.2d 78, 79 (Mo. banc 1990). Where the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, there is no room for construction. Community Federal Savings and Loan Ass'n v. Director of Revenue, 752 S.W.2d 794, 798 (Mo. banc 1988). If terms within a tax statute are defined by the legislature, this Court must give effect to the legislature's definition. St. Louis Country Club v. Administrative Hearing Comm'n, 657 S.W.2d 614, 617 (Mo. banc 1983).

The language of § 144.010.1(7) is unambiguous. The term "sale" is clearly defined in § 144.010.1(7) as the transfer of tangible personal property for valuable consideration. The plain language of the statute requires this Court to conclude that the sale took place on March 26, 1991, the date Jones paid for and received possession of the boat, trailer, and motors.

Section 144.071.1 expressly conditions the refund of sales tax after recision of a sale upon the purchaser's returning the property to the seller within sixty calendar days from the date of the sale. As Mr. Jones concedes, he did not return the boat, trailer, and motors to the seller until July 30, 1991. Because the sale took place on March 26, 1991, more than sixty days prior to return of the property to the seller, Mr. Jones is not eligible for a refund of sales tax under § 144.071.1.

In contending that the sale of the property did not occur until after the issuance of certificates of title by the Director of Revenue, Mr. Jones relies upon Schultz v. Murphy, et al., 596 S.W.2d 51 (Mo.App.1980), and Hickerson v. Con Frazier Buick Co., 264 S.W.2d 29 (Mo.App.1953). Neither case is applicable. Schultz stands for the proposition that the sale of a used motor vehicle occurs when the certificate of title is assigned by the seller to the buyer. Schultz, 596 S.W.2d at 53; see also, § 301.210, RSMo Supp.1991.

Hickerson actually supports the Director's position. In Hickerson the purchaser purchased from an automobile dealer a new vehicle and paid for the vehicle by check. Before the dealer could cash the check, the purchaser died. The dealer reclaimed the vehicle. Prior to his death, the purchaser had applied for a certificate of title. Subsequently the director of revenue issued the...

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