Last Thursday Senate Bill 185, sponsored by Senator Bo Hatchett, which gives Georgia taxpayers a level playing field was signed into law.
Federal judicial doctrine often requires Georgia courts, including the Georgia Tax Tribunal, to defer to the Department of Revenue (DOR) interpretation of ambiguous law and regulations even if the taxpayer’s interpretation is better.
SB 185 would eliminate all judicial deference to subregulatory interpretations of the DOR in matters involving litigation between taxpayers and the DOR. Specifically, it would remove any deference to the DOR’s interpretation of ambiguous constitutional, statutory, or regulatory provisions if the DOR’s interpretation has not gone through formal Administrative Procedure Act rulemaking process. This legislation would also align Georgia with how deference is now applied at the federal level since the IRS has announced that it would no longer seek judicial deference to interpretations set forth only in subregulatory guidance.
Passage of SB 185 would benefit all taxpayers engaged in disputes with the Georgia DOR by guaranteeing their ability to present their case before the Tax Tribunal with the knowledge that the judge will exercise his or her own independent judgment. While we have full confidence in the Georgia Department of Revenue to administer and enforce tax laws in a fair and professional manner, separation-of-powers dictates that the courts be the final arbiters of the law when tax disputes advance to the Tax Tribunal and beyond.
MAC Position: Support
Sponsors: Sen. Bo Hatchett, Rep. Todd Jones