Revenue Cabinet v. O'Daniel, No. 2001-SC-1032-DG.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
Writing for the CourtKeller
Citation153 S.W.3d 815
PartiesREVENUE CABINET, Commonwealth of Kentucky, Appellant, v. H.E. O'DANIEL, Sr.; and Lucy M. O'Daniel, Appellees. and Billy Curtsinger; Freda Curtsinger; Charles M. Polin; and Travis Bush, Appellants, v. Revenue Cabinet, Commonwealth of Kentucky; and Dana Bynum Mayton, Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 2002-SC-0204-TG.,No. 2001-SC-1032-DG.
Decision Date20 January 2005
153 S.W.3d 815
REVENUE CABINET, Commonwealth of Kentucky, Appellant,
v.
H.E. O'DANIEL, Sr.; and Lucy M. O'Daniel, Appellees. and
Billy Curtsinger; Freda Curtsinger; Charles M. Polin; and Travis Bush, Appellants,
v.
Revenue Cabinet, Commonwealth of Kentucky; and Dana Bynum Mayton, Appellees.
No. 2001-SC-1032-DG.
No. 2002-SC-0204-TG.
Supreme Court of Kentucky.
January 20, 2005.

[153 S.W.3d 816]

Michael D. Kalinyak, Kentucky Revenue Cabinet, Division of Legal Services, Frankfort, Counsel for Revenue Cabinet, Commonwealth of Kentucky and Dana Bynum Mayton.

H. Edward O'Daniel, Springfield, Phillip J. Shepherd, Frankfort, Counsel for H.E. O'Daniel, Sr.; Lucy M. O'Daniel; Billy Curtsinger; Freda Curtsinger; Charles M. Polin; and Travis Bush.

Opinion of the Court by Justice KELLER.


I. INTRODUCTION

In both of these appeals, motor vehicle owners challenge the Revenue

153 S.W.3d 817

Cabinet's 1995 ad valorem tax1 assessments2 for their vehicles. Because the subject vehicles, although purchased in late December 1994, were not registered in their owners' names until after January 1, 1995, the vehicle owners contend that they are not liable for the 1995 taxes. Conversely, the Revenue Cabinet claims that because the vehicle owners were the undisputed owners on January 1, they are liable for the taxes. Are the vehicle owners liable for the 1995 ad valorem taxes? Because the owners were allowed by statute a fifteen-day grace period from the purchase date to register the vehicles, and because, statutorily, only the owner of record on January 1, 1995 was liable for the taxes, we hold that the vehicle owners are not liable for the 1995 ad valorem taxes.

II. BACKGROUND
A. Revenue Cabinet v. O'Daniel, 2001-SC-1032-DG

On December 26, 1994, H.E. O'Daniel, Sr. and Lucy M. O'Daniel ("the O'Daniels") purchased a 1994 Lincoln Town Car from Crossroads Ford in Frankfort. On that date, the dealer gave the O'Daniels the keys and a properly executed Application for Title/Registration ("VTR").3 The O'Daniels took possession and began operating the vehicle on the Commonwealth's highways that day. Since Kentucky allows an owner a grace period for registering a purchased vehicle,4 they did not register it with the county clerk's office until January 19, 1995,5 on which date the county clerk duly entered the O'Daniels' vehicle into Kentucky's Automated Motor Vehicle Registration System ("AVIS")6

For the 1995 tax year, like prior years, the Revenue Cabinet initially assessed motor vehicles registered in AVIS as of January 1, 1995 for ad valorem tax purposes. But, since the O'Daniels had not yet registered their 1994 Lincoln Town Car, it was not at first assessed for 1995 ad valorem taxes. In June of 1995, however, the Revenue Cabinet, operating under a new policy that ownership, and thus tax liability, attaches at the point of sale, decided to implement a compliance program to identify and make assessments for ad valorem tax purposes on vehicles that were purchased in late 1994, but not registered by January 1, 1995 by virtue of the statutory grace period for registering vehicles. The

153 S.W.3d 818

Revenue Cabinet began the program with the 1995 tax year and identified approximately 6,000 to 8,000 such vehicles — one of which was the O'Daniels' 1994 Lincoln Town Car. Prior to this time, the Revenue Cabinet's policy was to assess taxes on the basis that liability attached at the time of registration. In accordance with its compliance program, the Revenue Cabinet sent the O'Daniels a bill for the 1995 taxes in October of 1996.

The O'Daniels unsuccessfully appealed the Revenue Cabinet's assessment to the Kentucky Board of Tax Appeals. They then appealed the Tax Board's decision to the Marion Circuit Court, where the trial court, recognizing that the Legislature had created a tax loophole as a result of the grace period, reversed the tax assessment. The Revenue Cabinet appealed the trial court's decision, contending that ownership for tax purposes occurs at the point of sale rather than at the point of registration. The Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the trial court, holding that the Revenue Cabinet only had authority to assess ad valorem taxes against the January 1 "owner of record" and that since the O'Daniels' vehicle was not registered in their names on January 1, 1995, they were not the "owners of record" on the day taxes were assessed. The Court of Appeals, therefore, held that the O'Daniels were not responsible for the 1995 taxes. We granted the Revenue Cabinet's motion for discretionary review.

B. Curtsinger v. Revenue Cabinet, 2002-SC-0204-TG

Under circumstances similar to those described above in the Revenue Cabinet v. O'Daniel appeal ("the O'Daniel appeal"), the Revenue Cabinet assessed 1995 ad valorem taxes on vehicles owned by Billy and Freda Curtsinger, Charles M. Polin, and Travis Bush ("the Curtsinger Appellants"), the Appellants in this appeal ("the Curtsinger appeal"). The Curtsinger Appellants filed a class action lawsuit in the Franklin Circuit Court challenging the assessments that they received pursuant to the Revenue Cabinet's compliance program.7 The Franklin Circuit Court granted the Revenue Cabinet a summary judgment, which the vehicle owners appealed. At the Revenue Cabinet's request, we accepted transfer of this appeal so that it could be consolidated and heard with the O'Daniel appeal.

Given that the O'Daniel appeal involves similar factual circumstances and the same dispositive legal issue as the Curtsinger appeal, we will focus primarily on the O'Daniel appeal — the first appeal docketed in this Court — to avoid unnecessary repetition in this opinion.

III. ANALYSIS

The resolution of these appeals depends upon the interpretation of several statutes. In 1995, KRS 134.810(4) and KRS 186.021(2) stated that the "owner of record on January 1 of any year shall be liable for taxes" on a motor vehicle:

KRS 134.810(4)

When a motor vehicle has been transferred before registration renewal or before taxes due have been paid, the owner of record on January 1 of any year shall be liable for the taxes on the motor vehicle, except as hereinafter provided.8

153 S.W.3d 819
KRS 186.021(2)

Pursuant to KRS 134.810(4), the owner of record on January 1 of any year shall be liable for taxes due on a motor vehicle.9

And KRS 186A.095 allowed a vehicle owner "a fifteen (15) day grace period from the date on which he purchased a vehicle" to obtain "a certificate of registration or title ... in his name."10

It is this Court's duty when interpreting statutes to give effect to the General Assembly's intent, but "no rule of interpretation... require[s] us to utterly ignore the plain ... meaning of words in a statute."11 In fact, "[t]he plain meaning of the statutory language is presumed to be what the legislature intended, and if the meaning is plain, then the court cannot base its interpretation on any other method or source."12 We "ascertain the intention of the legislature from words used in enacting statutes rather than surmising what may have been intended but was not expressed."13 In other words, we assume that the "[Legislature] meant exactly what it said, and said exactly what it meant."14 Only "when [it] would produce an injustice or ridiculous result" should we ignore the plain meaning of a statute.15

KRS 134.810(4) and KRS 186.021(2) are clear: the owner of record on January 1 is liable for the ad valorem taxes due on a vehicle. And KRS 186A.095 is equally as clear; a vehicle owner is allowed a fifteen (15) day grace period from the date of purchase to register it in his or her name. The O'Daniels purchased their vehicle on December 26, 1994. They took advantage of KRS 186A.095's grace period and registered the vehicle well after January 1, 1995. As a result, the O'Daniels were not the "owners of record" of the vehicle on January 1, 1995, and therefore, they are not liable for the ad valorem taxes for that year. The same holds true for the Curtsinger Appellants.

KRS 186.010(7)(a) defines a vehicle "owner" as (1) "a person who holds the legal title of a vehicle or [(2)] a person who pursuant to a bona fide sale has received physical possession of the vehicle...."16 A person holds the "legal title" to a vehicle if it is registered in his or her name.17 Here, the vehicle was not yet

153 S.W.3d 820

registered in the O'Daniels' names on tax assessment day, i.e., January 1, and accordingly they did not hold the legal title to the vehicle on that date. In other words, they were not the owners of record18 on January 1, 1995. But, based on the second part of this definition, the Revenue Cabinet contends that the O'Daniels owned the vehicle on January 1, 1995 and for that reason they are liable for the taxes. We agree that the O'Daniels owned the vehicle on January 1, 1995, but we disagree with the Revenue Cabinet's conclusion that ownership alone is sufficient to subject the O'Daniels to tax liability for the vehicle. Although under the second part of KRS 186.010(7)(a)'s definition the O'Daniels undisputedly owned the vehicle on January 1, it is equally undisputed that they were not the owners of record on that date, and under KRS 134.810(4) and KRS 186.021(2), it is "the owner of record on January 1" who is liable for the taxes on the vehicle. The Legislature could have simply provided in KRS 134.810(4) and KRS 186.021(2) that the "owner on January 1" shall be liable for the ad valorem taxes on motor vehicles; instead, it restricted "owner" with the prepositional phrase "of record." By so doing, the...

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  • B.L. v. Schuhmann, Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-151-RGJ-CHL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • May 2, 2019
    ...247, 249 (Ky. 1962) ), "rather than surmising what may have been intended but was not expressed," Revenue Cabinet v. O'Daniel , 153 S.W.3d 815, 819 (Ky. 2005) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "[S]tatutes must be given a literal interpretation unless they are ......
  • Jefferson Cnty. Bd. of Educ. v. Fell, No. 2011–SC–000658–DGE.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • September 20, 2012
    ...of statutory interpretation in this Commonwealth.10 While the “plain meaning of the statutory language,” Revenue Cabinet v. O'Daniel, 153 S.W.3d 815, 819 (Ky.2005), is our first stop in discerning legislative intent, statutory interpretation is not a matter of simply offering numerous examp......
  • Planned Parenthood Great Nw. v. EMW Women's Surgical Ctr., P.S.C., Civil Action 3:22-cv-198-RGJ
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • May 19, 2022
    ...and said exactly what it meant.'” Univ. of Louisville v. Rothstein, 532 S.W.3d 644, 648 (Ky. 2017) (quoting Revenue Cabinet v. O'Daniel, 153 S.W.3d 815, 819 (Ky. 2005)). The words of the text must be interpreted in their context, meaning a court must scrutinize not just the words of the sta......
  • Planned Parenthood Great Nw. v. Cameron, Civil Action 3:22-cv-198-RGJ
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • April 21, 2022
    ...and if the meaning is plain, then the court cannot base its interpretation on any other method or source.” Revenue Cabinet v. O'Daniel, 153 S.W.3d 815, 819 (Ky. 2005). “[O]ur rules of statutory interpretation assume the Legislature knows what it is doing and intends the clearly expressed la......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
94 cases
  • B.L. v. Schuhmann, Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-151-RGJ-CHL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • May 2, 2019
    ...247, 249 (Ky. 1962) ), "rather than surmising what may have been intended but was not expressed," Revenue Cabinet v. O'Daniel , 153 S.W.3d 815, 819 (Ky. 2005) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "[S]tatutes must be given a literal interpretation unless they are ......
  • Jefferson Cnty. Bd. of Educ. v. Fell, No. 2011–SC–000658–DGE.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • September 20, 2012
    ...of statutory interpretation in this Commonwealth.10 While the “plain meaning of the statutory language,” Revenue Cabinet v. O'Daniel, 153 S.W.3d 815, 819 (Ky.2005), is our first stop in discerning legislative intent, statutory interpretation is not a matter of simply offering numerous examp......
  • Planned Parenthood Great Nw. v. EMW Women's Surgical Ctr., P.S.C., Civil Action 3:22-cv-198-RGJ
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • May 19, 2022
    ...and said exactly what it meant.'” Univ. of Louisville v. Rothstein, 532 S.W.3d 644, 648 (Ky. 2017) (quoting Revenue Cabinet v. O'Daniel, 153 S.W.3d 815, 819 (Ky. 2005)). The words of the text must be interpreted in their context, meaning a court must scrutinize not just the words of the sta......
  • Planned Parenthood Great Nw. v. Cameron, Civil Action 3:22-cv-198-RGJ
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • April 21, 2022
    ...and if the meaning is plain, then the court cannot base its interpretation on any other method or source.” Revenue Cabinet v. O'Daniel, 153 S.W.3d 815, 819 (Ky. 2005). “[O]ur rules of statutory interpretation assume the Legislature knows what it is doing and intends the clearly expressed la......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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