State and Local Tax Services

The experience of a former State Tax Commissioner, as well as former attorneys in the West Virginia Department of Tax and Revenue, coupled with the experience of other lawyers in the Tax Section, gives Bowles Rice a strong background in state and local taxation.

We believe that our knowledge and participation in evolving state tax issues, and our participation in studies and projects that will shape future laws, is critical to serving our clients and understanding the present state of the law.

Whether helping to structure major commercial transactions, challenging excessive tax assessments or advocating favorable legislation or regulatory policies, the attorneys of the Bowles Rice State and Local Tax Team bring more than 100 years of practice experience to the work of advancing our clients’ interests.  In addition to their service as lead counsel in a wide variety of tax planning, litigation and lobbying projects for private and publicly owned clients, non-profits and trade organizations, that experience also includes prior public service as West Virginia State Tax Commissioner and Staff Attorney for the West Virginia Department of Revenue. 

We regularly assist clients with the design and implementation of creative and legally effective strategies to limit their exposure to West Virginia’s wide array of business taxes, including the corporation net income tax, the business franchise taxsales and use taxes, the severance tax and the ad valorem property tax.   For example, we counsel clients in the utilization of tax financing mechanisms available under West Virginia law such as sales tax and property tax increment financing options.  With their several undergraduate and advanced degrees in business and economics, the professional credentials of several certified public accountants and decades of experience as business counselors, our attorneys’ advice is grounded, not only on a thorough understanding of the often complex rules governing those taxes and  available exemptions and credits, but on their ability to understand each client’s unique economic circumstances. 

Thus, whether it involves entity formation, a sale or acquisition of business assets, management succession or development of a new business, by approaching each new engagement in such a manner, our attorneys help achieve optimum state and local tax outcomes within the context of each client’s overall economic objectives.

In state and local tax controversy settings, our attorneys combine deep subject matter knowledge with a thorough understanding of evolving procedural regimes and a practical approach that emphasizes achievement of optimum economic outcomes based on the substantive legal merits, consideration of costs and future implications of the relevant issues and recognition of opportunities to resolve matters at the earliest stage possible.   These principles guide our approach to litigation whether it is before the West Virginia Office of Tax Appeals, County Boards of Equalization and Review or Assessment Appeals, the Circuit Courts or the Supreme Courts of West Virginia and of the United States.

Finally, through active participation in many state and local volunteer business and professional organizations, and in close coordination with other government relations professionals both in and outside the firm, our  attorneys regularly provide effective advocacy for public policy advancements as to all aspects of the state and local public finance arena.  This includes both promotion of substantive and procedural reforms and active opposition to initiatives which present onerous implications for clients’ interests.   

Our lawyers are well known in their profession as frequently published authors and speakers on a wide range of state and local tax subjects.  Examples include:

  • “Special Tax Treatment of the Coal Industry” (11 Eastern Mineral L. Inst. P. 6-1, Matthew Bender & Co., Inc., 1990);
  • “The Illusion of Due Process in West Virginia’s Property Tax Appeals System: Making the Constitution’s Promise a Reality” (98 W. Va. Law Review, 1996);
  • “The Dawn of Combined Reporting in West Virginia” (The 60th West Virginia Tax Institute, 2009)
  • “2010 Property Tax Appeals Legislation” (The 61st West Virginia Tax Institute, 2010).
  • “No Customers? No Nexus? No Problem?” (Tax Report, Institute for Professionals in Taxation, August, 2011, p. 18);
  • “Griffith v. ConAgra Brands: Due Process Line Found in Shifting Sands of Economic Nexus” (Tax Report, Institute for Professionals in Taxation, July, 2012, p. 3, w/Floyd M. “Kin” Sayre)
  • “Combined Reporting in West Virginia: Unanswered Questions and Unfinished Business” (Southeastern Association of Tax Administrators, 62nd Annual Meeting, July 24, 2012)

For all these reasons, if your state or local tax burden may be, or already is, in play, whether in a transactional, litigation, administrative or legislative setting, it is time to put our lawyers on your team.

Examples of the kinds of issues we regularly address in these various contexts include:

  • Designing, negotiating and defending in court, a payment-in-lieu-of-tax (PILOT) agreement and the related arrangements which were integral components for the development of a $1.8 billion, 700 megawatt merchant electric power generation plant in Monongalia County. 
  • Guiding clients in the manufacturing, extractive, retail and wholesale goods distribution, banking and hospitality industries through the myriad of investment incentive tax credits and exemptions that West Virginia makes available to attract new businesses and jobs. 
  • Providing opinions on state and local tax consequences of pending transactions for use by third party lenders and investors. 
  • Successfully challenging, in litigation, the State’s denial of the sales and use tax exemption for bulk purchases of prescription drugs and appliances which ultimately led to the payment of millions of dollars of refunds to institutional health care providers throughout West Virginia. See, Syncor International Corp. v. Commissioner, 542 S.E. 2d 479 (W.Va. 2001). 
  • Achieving multi-million dollar reductions in proposed natural resource property tax assessments before the Boards of Equalization and Review in several West Virginia counties. 
  • Advocating, in a case of first impression, a judicial challenge to the State’s use of “economic nexus” as the basis for imposing corporation income tax on multi-state enterprises. Commissioner v. ConAgra Brands, Inc. (WV Supreme Court, Docket No. 11-0252)  
  • Successfully challenging, on behalf of natural resource producers, excessive and legally dubious severance privilege tax assessments at both the administrative and judicial levels. See, e.g. Gilbert Imported Hardwoods, Inc. v. Commissioner, 280 S.E.2d 260 (W.Va. 1981). 
  • Actively engaging in administrative and legislative policy advocacy to ameliorate the corporation income tax effects of West Virginia’s adoption of aggressive Multi-State Tax Commission (MTC) positions on various combined reporting issues, including overreaching water’s edge rules. Senate Bill 386, 2012 Acts of the W.Va. Legislature, Regular Session. 
  • Making critical contributions to long-needed legislative reform of the procedures by which proposed property values are administratively and judicially reviewed for ad valorem property tax purposes. Senate Bill 401, 2010 Acts of the W.Va. Legislature, Chapter 185.

Our lawyers’ active participation, past and current leadership roles in, or  professional contributions to, such organizations as the Institute for Professionals in Taxation (IPT), the National Association of Property Tax Attorneys (NAPTA), the Council on State Taxation (COST), the Southeastern Association of Tax Administrators (SEATA), the West Virginia Tax Institute, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the West Virginia Society of CPAs,  enable them to both maintain valuable professional contacts and to help influence policy developments to our clients’ advantage

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