U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Guam Tax Refund Case

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

GovGuam contests order to pay refunds within 6 months

By Shawn Raymundo

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 31, 2016) – The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled this week to review a petition from the Calvo administration that requests the high court hear a case related to the local government’s payment of tax refunds.

The administration has continued to challenge the District Court of Guam’s 2013 ruling and injunction that requires the government of Guam to refund all error-free tax returns within six months of a filing.

Last month, attorneys representing Gov. Eddie Calvo filed a writ of certiorari, which is a petition asking the Supreme Court to review a lower court’s ruling. The petition will be distributed to the justices at the end of the week when they are scheduled to hold a conference.

The Supreme Court holds such conferences so the justices can consider the latest petitions filed with the nation’s highest court.

After losing on appeal to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court last year, the administration had until Dec. 31 to file a petition with the high court, asking it to hear the case.

In December, the governor’s legal team, which includes the global law firm Kirkland and Ellis, first filed an application, asking the court to maintain the stay on the government’s mandate to pay the plaintiffs’ attorney fees from the case. They also filed a request to extend the deadline to file their writ of certiorari.

The administration has argued that the government of Guam shouldn’t be liable for any attorney fees because Guam is to be treated as a federal agency tasked with collecting and refunding federal taxes pursuant to federal tax laws.

Justice Anthony Kennedy denied the application to stay the mandate, but approved the deadline extension, which gave the administration until Feb. 1 to file the writ.

The plaintiffs were asked to submit a response to the writ. However, Ignacio Aguigui, the plaintiffs’ attorney, has previously said he filed a waiver of response — meaning, he didn’t file a formal response — in order to preserve resources.

"Because we’ve prevailed so far on so many levels, why go through another one? That’s the gist of it," he previously said.

"The Supreme Court could deny cert. If they don’t hear from us, they could still deny cert," Aguigui added. "Even if they request (a response) from us doesn’t mean they’re going to grant (the cert). It just means they want to hear from us."

Paying refunds

Earlier this month, the administration began paying tax refunds for 2015 returns.

About $6 million has been paid out so far, covering status-A returns filed by Jan. 21.

Attorneys from both parties couldn’t be reached for comment as of press time.

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