In my daily routine of reading state and local tax cases across the country, I recently inquired to the State of Florida for the status of an innovative sales tax case unique to the gasoline and petroleum industry this week. As many of you know, I have had the pleasure of growing up and assisting in my family’s petroleum business that has owned, operated, and distributed petroleum and gasoline in South Florida for over 30 years. Therefore, cases like Gate Fuel Services & Gate Petroleum, catch my attention and I really root for innovative and aggressive taxpayers like the one in these cases.
I brought this concept up to several gas station owners at the 2012 Florida Petroleum Marketers Association (“FPMA”) Fuel Expo and many met my suggestion with criticism or disbelief. It is still difficult for me to understand how a room full of dozens of Florida’s gas station owners, operators, and distributors, would rather discuss the latest developments with their beer vendors over a tall cold one, rather than sit and listen to me rant about Florida sales tax. For all of the naysayers out there, I have recently received word from the State of Florida, that the Gate cases were recently settled.
Many of you may recall, I wrote an article for my law firm’s blog in May 2012, about two companion sales and use tax cases. Both cases Gate Petroleum Co. v. Florida Department of Revenue, Case No. 12-CA-381 (2d Cir. Ct. 2012), andGate Fuel Service v. Florida Department of Revenue, 12-CA-379 (2d Cir. Ct. 2012),were filed in Leon County, home of the Florida Department of Revenue. The Gate cases centered around a refund denial for sales and use tax in the amounts of $160,935 and $ $45,071, respectively. In both cases, the Florida Department of Revenue (“DOR”) admittedly opposed the refund claims based essentially the same innovative theory of recovery.
For the uninformed, the retail gas station taxpayers in the cases alleged that they made certain equipment purchases that were exempt from Florida sales and use tax. Specifically, the Taxpayers argued that fuel storage equipment which holds regular and premium-grade fuel in underground tanks, mixes the two at the dispenser, and creates a mid-grade gasoline for sale at its retail locations. Being that this is the pump system at most modern gas stations, how come every gas station that has purchased taxable equipment in the last three years are not going for the refund? in short, they all should.