Posted On: February 6, 2014 by Steven R. Merican

Trucker’s Failure To Raise Commerce Clause Defense Dooms Tax Appeal

Witte Brothers is an intersate trucking company. After an audit, under protest, Witte paid Illinois for “pass-through” miles [distance driven in Illinois without picking up or delivering goods].

Witte sued Illinois for reimbursement of the taxes. The trial court ruled that the Illinois Income Tax Act did not allow the State to tax truckers pass-through miles. So Illinois appealed.

Among other things, Witte argued in the appellate court that taxing pass-through miles violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. But Witte did not raise this argument in the trial court, nor allege it as a separate count in its complaint. So the First District Illinois Appellate Court refused to consider the argument.

No need to worry if you’re concerned the State got beat out of tax revenue. The appellate court reversed, and ruled that pass-through miles are taxable. [“pass-through miles establish a physical and economic presence in Illinois which must be taxed …”]

This is the sort of ruling that annoys illinoisappellatelawyerblog.com. The appellate court would review the Commerce Clause argument de novo [no deference to the trial court]. If what the trial court says is inconsequential anyway, then the appellate court should not be allowed to avoid the issue because it was not raised in the trial court. So now we have precedent that blesses a tax that may violate the United States Constitution.

Read the whole case, Witte Brothers Exchange v. Department of Revenue, 2013 IL App (1st) 120850.

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