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In re Appeal of Reeve Cattle Co., Inc.

Court of Appeals of Kansas

March 17, 2017

In the Matter of the Appeal of Reeve Cattle Co., Inc. for the Year 2013 and 2014 in Finney County, Kansas.

          SYLLABUS

          1. The burden of proving the invalidity of a Board of Tax Appeal's (BOTA) action is on the party asserting its invalidity. The general rule is that statutes imposing a tax must be interpreted strictly in favor of the taxpayer. However, tax exemption statutes are interpreted strictly in favor of imposing the tax and against allowing an exemption for one who does not clearly qualify.

         2. An appellate court is not required to defer to BOTA's interpretation of a tax statute.

         3. The most fundamental rule of statutory construction is that the intent of the legislature governs if that intent can be ascertained. An appellate court must first attempt to ascertain legislative intent through the statutory language enacted, giving common words their ordinary meaning.

         4. When a statute is plain and unambiguous, an appellate court should not speculate about the legislative intent behind that clear language, and it should refrain from reading something into the statute that is not readily found in its words. Where there is no ambiguity, the court need not resort to statutory construction. Only if the statute's language or text is unclear or ambiguous does the court use canons of construction or legislative history to construe the legislature's intent.

         5. Under the facts of this case, BOTA did not err in finding that the taxpayer's mixer-feeder trucks are exempt from taxation as farm machinery and equipment under K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 79-201j.

         Appeal from Board of Tax Appeals. Affirmed.

          Michael A. Montoya, of Michael A. Montoya, P.A., of Salina, for appellant Board of County Commissioners of Finney County.

          S. Lucky DeFries and Jeffrey A. Wietharn, of Coffman, DeFries & Nothern, a Professional Association, of Topeka, for appellee Reeve Cattle Co., Inc.

          Tucker A. Stewart, associate counsel, of The Kansas Livestock Association, Terry Holdren, CEO/general counsel, of The Kansas Farm Bureau, and Randy Stookey, general counsel, vice president, of The Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association, amici curiae.

          Jeffrey A. Chanay, chief deputy attorney general, Dwight R. Carswell and Bryan C. Clark, assistant solicitors general, Derek Schmidt, attorney general, and Wendee Grady, of Kansas Department of Agriculture, for amicus curiae Kansas Department of Agriculture.

          Before McAnany, P.J., Malone, J., and Stutzman, S.J.

          Malone, J.

         This is an appeal from a decision of the State Board of Tax Appeals (BOTA) addressing whether certain personal property owned by Reeve Cattle Company, Inc. (Reeve Cattle) is exempt from taxation. The property at issue is the cab and chassis of several mixer-feeder trucks which are used to mix cattle feed ingredients and haul the feed to cattle within the feedlot. BOTA determined the mixer-feeder trucks are exempt from taxation under the farm machinery and equipment exemption at K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 79-201j. The Board of County Commissioners of Finney County (the County) appeals, arguing that the mixer-feeder trucks are not exempt because they are trucks, ...


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