Alabama Tax Tribunal Moves Toward October 1 Kickoff

The new Alabama Tax Tribunal that will begin hearing appeals of most final tax assessments from state or local governments on Oct. 1 is in the final stage of preparing for its debut.

The ATT was created by the Alabama Taxpayer Fairness Act of 2014 that was supported by the Business Council of Alabama and numerous trade association members of the Business Associations’ Tax Coalition.

The bill signed into law by Governor Robert Bentley was the result of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights II legislation whose passage to update the original TBOR had been sought by the BCA for at least a dozen years.

“For the first time, appeals of most tax assessments by state or local governments will be heard by the new Alabama Tax Tribunal agency that will be totally separate from the Alabama Department of Revenue,” said William J. Canary, President and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama. “This separation from the Department of Revenue has long been a goal of the BCA and is a vital tool for new and existing Alabama’s businesses to know that appeals will be impartially heard by an independent agency.”

Under the law, the ATT inherits the personnel and equipment of the Alabama Department of Revenue’s Administrative Law Division.

Governor Bentley appointed Administrative Law Division Judge Bill Thompson as the first judge of the ATT, ensuring a smooth transition to the new system. Thompson has been drafting proposed regulations to govern procedures for appeals filed with the ATT.

The Alabama Department of Revenue has scheduled a Sept. 10 hearing in Montgomery to take public comments on proposed rule changes for granting administrative reviews. The proposed changes are subject to the rulemaking requirements of the Alabama Administrative Procedures Act.

Notice of the proposed rules has been published in the Alabama Administrative Monthly.

The public may comment in writing to the Secretary of the Alabama Department of Revenue, Room 4131, Gordon Persons Building, 50 N. Ripley St., Montgomery, AL, 36132, until early September, or in person at a Sept. 10 hearing.

A public hearing is scheduled Sept. 10 at 1:30 p.m. in Room 1203 of the Gordon Persons Building, 50 N. Ripley St., Montgomery, Ala.

Thompson has said that he will make any changes deemed appropriate and certify the regulations for final adoption.

The ATT will hear most tax appeals, challenges to proposed adjustments to a taxpayer’s net operating loss carryovers, denied refund claims, and any preliminary assessment by the ADOR or local jurisdiction that has not been made final or is withdrawn within five years from the date of entry, according to tax attorneys Bruce P. Ely and William T. Thistle II of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP. (Ad valorem taxes and municipal business license tax appeals will not be within the ATT’s jurisdiction.)

Various entities including the Alabama State Tax Bar Section, the ADOR’s tax division, the Alabama Society of CPAs, self-administered local tax jurisdictions, contract auditing firms, and Alabama law firms have contributed suggestions.

BCA member Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP was among those supplying comments. “The proposed regulations make it clear that taxpayers will receive a fair and impartial hearing before the ATT in a relatively informal manner, just as they do now before the ALD,” Ely and Thistle wrote.

They said the new provisions more closely parallel the American Association’s Model State Administrative Tax Tribunal Act, which grants broader powers of discovery than under current law.

To review a copy of the proposed regulations, contact Dana Raybon at the Alabama Department of Revenue’s Administrative Law Division, Ely or Thistle.

-Dana Beyerle