10 Lessons from the Verizon Cases at the State Corporation Commission

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In December of 2009, Verizon Communication, Inc.’s two “baby bell” subsidiaries in Virginia (Verizon Virginia, Inc. and Verizon South, Inc. — collectively, “Verizon”) filed applications to correct erroneous assessments of almost all of its personal property in the Commonwealth for tax year 2009, and seeking significant refunds. Verizon ultimately added a claim for tax year 2010 as well, pushing estimates of the local tax dollars at risk to well over $36 million statewide.

Although personal property taxes are imposed locally by Virginia’s counties, cities and towns, the assessments (valuation) of the items of property for public service corporations are done centrally by order of the State Corporation Commission. By statute, challenges to the SCC’s assessment are filed and litigated at the Commission, rather than in local circuit courts.

Once given an opportunity to do so, over 100 Virginia local governments filed notices of participation. Sands Anderson PC represented 29 of those localities over the course of the litigation.

Along with Fairfax County and other large localities with in-house tax litigators, the Sands Anderson Government Group was pleased to take a lead in the ultimately successful Virginia local government effort to defend Verizon’s applications. On August 3, 2011, Verizon moved to voluntarily dismiss its multi-million dollar claims and the Commission granted those motions. No refunds were paid.

While there were many issues arising from the cases, we took away a number of “lessons learned” that we are pleased to share. Here are the top ten...

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