Worldwide Equipment of TN, Inc.; Worldwide Equipment, Inc.; Worldwide Equipment of WV, Inc., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
United States of America, Defendant-Appellee.
Argued: October 6, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Kentucky at Pikeville. Nos. 7:14-cv-00107;
7:14-cv-00108; 7:15-cv-00018; 7:15-cv-00019; Amul R. Thapar,
M. Hicks, KEATING MUETHING & KLEKAMP PLL, Cincinnati,
Ohio, for Appellants.
Ciamporcero Avetta, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,
Washington, D.C., for Appellee.
M. Hicks, William A. Posey, Bryce J. Yoder, KEATING MUETHING
& KLEKAMP PLL, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellants.
Ciamporcero Avetta, Francesca Ugolini, UNITED STATES
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.
Before: MERRITT, MOORE, and ROGERS, Circuit Judges
ROGERS, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
case presents the question of what one must do in order to
sue for the refund of a tax that someone else paid. Worldwide
Equipment, Inc. remitted a 12% federal excise tax collected
from purchasers of its heavy duty trucks, and sought a refund
from the United States, claiming that the trucks qualified as
exempted, "off-highway" vehicles under 26 U.S.C.
§ 7701(a)(48). The refund statute for such a case, 26
U.S.C. § 6416(a), requires a refund claimant to show
that it has made arrangement to avoid double payments by, as
relevant to this case, submitting written customer consent
forms. Worldwide did not supply such consents to the IRS. The
district court, relying on long-standing Supreme Court and
Sixth Circuit precedents applying predecessor statutory
provisions, United States v. Jefferson Electric Mfg.
Co., 291 U.S. 386 (1934) and United States v.
Standard Oil Co., 158 F.2d 126 (6th Cir. 1946),
dismissed Worldwide's refund claims on nonwaivable
sovereign immunity grounds because the consent forms were
statutorily required as part of a "duly filed"
claim under 26 U.S.C. § 7422(a). Notwithstanding
Worldwide's arguments on appeal, dismissal was proper.
Equipment, Inc. is an authorized dealer for Mack Trucks, Inc.
Part of Worldwide's business is selling heavy Mack trucks
that are designed to be used in Appalachian coalfields. One
such truck is the GU713, which Mack began selling in 2008 as
part of the "Granite" or "GU" Series.
Depending on a customer's needs and the truck's
applications, the GU713 is available in several
classifications, including normal duty, heavy duty, and
severe duty. According to Worldwide, the Severe Duty GU713
("subject truck") is designed and sold to
Worldwide's customers for the specific purpose of
off-road, coal-industry use. The subject trucks are uniformly
wider than standard GU713 models, with larger and heavier
components, and they generally cost between $27, 000 and $32,
000 more than the Normal or Heavy Duty GU713 models.
2008 and 2014, the IRS taxed Worldwide's sales of the
subject trucks under 26 U.S.C. § 4051(a)(1)-(2), which
requires a retailer to pay a twelve-percent excise tax on the
"first retail sale" of an "[a]utomobile truck
chassis" or "bod[y]" weighing more than 33,
000 pounds sold for use as part of a highway vehicle. See
id. During those tax periods, Worldwide collected the
§ 4051(a) excise tax from customers purchasing the
subject trucks and remitted the taxes to the Government.
Worldwide then filed administrative claims for refund of the
taxes collected from its customers, on the grounds that the
subject trucks were "off-highway transportation
vehicles" excepted from § 4051(a) by 26 U.S.C.
of a refund claim, the excise tax refund statute, 26 U.S.C.
§ 6416(a), requires refund claimants to demonstrate that
they would not be unjustly enriched by a refund and
identifies a number of methods for claimants to make such a
showing. Relevant to this case, § 6416(a) allows a
refund claimant to show that it has made arrangement to avoid
double payments by submitting written customer consent forms
with the claimant's administrative ...