Historic Alabama Tax Tribunal Begins on Wednesday

An independent state and local tax appeals process that was a major goal of the Business Council of Alabama for at least a dozen years begins operating Wednesday under the new law that separates tax appeals from the Alabama Department of Revenue’s Administrative Law Division.

The newly created Alabama Tax Tribunal that begins operating Wednesday, the first day of the new fiscal year, is totally independent of the ADOR where it had been lodged for decades.

“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,” said William J. Canary, President and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama.

The ATT was created by the Alabama Tax Fairness Act of 2014, a bill supported by the BCA and numerous trade association members of the Business Associations’ Tax Coalition. “The credit goes to all members of the BATC who fought for passage and helped push it over the finish line this year,” Canary said.

Governor Robert Bentley signed the law that was the result of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights II legislation whose passage had been sought by the BCA for more than a decade. The legislation updated the original Taxpayers Bill of Rights first passed in 1992.

In the presence of Business Council of Alabama board members, BCA President and CEO William J. Canary, legislators, tax attorneys, business governmental affairs executives, and Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey, Governor Robert Bentley on March 11 signed Alabama Taxpayers Bill of Rights II legislation into law as the Taxpayer Fairness Act of 2014. It created the independent Alabama Tax Tribunal, which begins operation on Wednesday.

For the first time, appeals of state and local taxes (except for property and municipal business license taxes) can be made to an independent government body. About 10 local government jurisdictions have exercised the opt-out provision in the law and will continue use their local tax appeals process.

The ATT inherits the personnel and equipment of the ADOR’s Administrative Law Division.

Governor Bentley appointed Administrative Law Division Judge Bill Thompson as the ATT’s first chief tax tribunal judge. He will continue hearing appeals as he has done for the last 31 years.

“The ATT is independent of the Department of Revenue and under the new law state appeals and most local appeals will be subject to a uniform system,” Thompson said. He said that all tax levies except for local property taxes and municipal business license taxes can be appealed to the ATT.

“I will continue operating like I have been,” Thompson said. “People who don’t know me can be assured that this process is impartial and that it’s not associated with the state Department of Revenue.”

The ATT’s rules that have gone through the Administrative Procedures Act process will become effective Oct. 14, said Jerry Bassett, Director of the Alabama Legislative Reference Service.

The ATT’s provisions most closely parallel the American Bar Association’s Model State Administrative Tax Tribunal Act.

-Dana Beyerle