Thursday, June 16, 2022
Agricultural law touches many aspects of the daily life of a farmer, rancher, or anyone using an ag-related product or service. In today’s post, I provide a small sample illustrating that very point.
Some additional ag law-related developments – it’s the topic of today’s post.
Claims Against Dog Food Producer Wrongfully Dismissed
Kucharski-Berger v. Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc., 60 Kan. App. 2d 510, 494 P.3d 283 (Kan, Ct. App. 2021)
A veterinarian prescribed Hill’s Pet Nutrition dog food for the plaintiff’s dog. The plaintiff sued Hill’s Pet Nutrition upon discovering that the dog food did not contain medicine or drugs, had not been tested and approved for medicinal purposes by the FDA, but was priced higher than “normal” dog food. The plaintiff claimed the defendant and other pet food manufacturers had conspired to monopolize the prescription pet food market and they had artificially inflated the prices by claiming the food required a prescription. No federal or state law required pet food to be sold with a prescription from a vet. The plaintiff claimed the defendant had violated the Kansas Restraint of Trade Act (KRTA) and the Kansas Consumers Protection Act (KCPA) and also brought an unjust enrichment claim. The trial court dismissed the case for failure to state a claim under KCPA, the plaintiff had to allege that the defendant was engaged in a deceptive act or practice involving the plaintiff that caused the plaintiff damages. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant had misrepresented that the dog food required a prescription so as to sell at a premium price. The appellate court determined that the plaintiff had clearly alleged sufficient facts to put the defendant on notice of the allegations under the KCPA. The defendant claimed that the plaintiff failed to show a causal connection between the prescription practices and the injury, but the appellate court noted that the plaintiff did not need to show she was misled, only that the defendant’s actions were deceptive. On that point, the appellate court noted that the plaintiff had provided enough detail in the complaint to show that the prescription requirement could be deceptive and was the cause of her spending more money (the injury). As such, the plaintiff’s KCPA claims should not have been dismissed. With respect to the KRTA claim, the court noted that the plaintiff was required to allege that the defendant was creating a restriction in trade, increasing or reducing the price of merchandise to prevent competition, and had entered into an agreement establishing a set price for a good in the market. The plaintiff alleged the defendant had entered into a contract with other dog food producers to set prices higher for prescription dog food, which violated KRTA. The plaintiff also claimed that the defendant had entered into a conspiracy to monopolize the prescription dog food market. As such, the appellate court held that the plaintiff had properly presented the KRTA claims. The appellate court reversed the trial court’s dismissal and remanded the case for furthering proceedings.
Oil and Gas Developments
Fracking Water Not Taxable
CDOR PLR 22-001 (Apr. 8, 2022)
A Colorado company sold non-potable river water to oil and gas producers for use in hydraulic fracturing and sought guidance from the Colorado Department of Revenue (CDOR) as to its taxability. The company delivers water by withdrawing it from ditch and reservoir systems, securing rights-of-way, and laying temporary surface lines to the customers’ locations. The CDOR concluded that the company did not owe sales tax because water in conduits, pipes, ditches and reservoirs is not subject to sales tax.
Colorado Changes Oil and Gas Severance Tax Credit
H.B. 1391, signed into law on June 7, 2022.
Colorado H.B. 1391 was signed into law on June 7, 2022 and changes the calculation of the oil and gas severance tax credit. Beginning January 1, 2025, the credit will be calculated as 76.56 percent of the gross income attributable to the well in the current tax year, multiplied by the local mill rate of the prior year. Under prior law, the credit was 87.5 percent of the prior year’s local taxes, which are assessed at 87.5 percent of the gross income of the prior year and are subject to the prior year’s local mill levies. The change is intended to simplify the credit’s calculation and eliminate the one-year lag in its administration. Well operators, rather than royalty interest owners will be responsible for the tax.
Low-Producing Oil and Gas Tax Exemption Tied to Actual Projection.
Farmer v. Board of Ellis County Commissioners, Nos. 123,488 & 123,489, 2022 Kan. App. LEXIS 19 (Kan. Ct. App. May 6, 2022)
The taxpayer sought a refund for property tax exemptions under state law (K.S.A. 79-201t) for tax year 2018 for several oil and gas leases on his property for low-producing oil and gas wells (less than five barrels per day. The Board of Tax Appeals (BOTA) denied the refund on the basis that it would be retrospective and concluded that the taxpayer should pay the amount of tax based on the predicted production for 2018 rather than actual production. At the trial court, BOTA argued the leases should not be exempt because the 2017 production that was used to find the fair market value for taxes for 2018 was not at the exempt level. BOTA claimed the first time the taxpayers would qualify for the exemption would be in 2019 as the 2018 oil production would be used at that time to predict the value that would meet the exemption level. The trial court held the taxpayers should be granted the exemption as the daily average in 2018 fell below the level required for the exemption. On appeal, the appellate court concluded that the statute was unclear on when the exemption could take effect and if a refund could be awarded. The appellate court looked at how BOTA honored tax refunds in the past for taxpayers who filed for an exemption retrospectively. Based on legislative intent, the appellate court held the intent was clearly to allow tax exemptions on the first day an oil well would qualify. The appellate court held that the taxpayer should be refunded property tax if the well actually produced at exempt levels instead of the projected production levels.
There’s never a dull moment in the ag law and tax world.