Pizza Hut Franchise King Tax Case Heads Back to Kansas Board

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By Christopher Brown

A $42 million tax residency dispute between Kansas and the nation’s one-time top Pizza Hut franchisee has been bounced back to the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals by the state’s highest court ( In re Bicknell, Kan., Nos. 111, 202, petition for review denied 2/17/17 ).

In notices issued Feb. 17 and Feb. 21, respectively, the Kansas Supreme Court denied a petition for review filed by the state and a cross petition for review filed by Gene Bicknell.

At issue is a $42 million tax assessment levied by the Kansas Department of Revenue against Bicknell and his wife for 2005-06, a period when the Bicknells claimed they were living in Florida. The assessment was upheld by the Kansas Court of Tax Appeals, now known as the Board of Tax Appeals, but was set aside in September 2015 by the Kansas Court of Appeals, which held that COTA had ignored or disregarded almost all DOR regulations regarding tax residency status.

The court of appeals remanded the case to COTA with instructions to redetermine the Bicknells’ residency status under the regulations, but that was put on hold during the pendency of the state’s petition for review with the Kansas Supreme Court, a period of more than 12 months. Now that the high court has denied the petition, the case is headed back to the Board of Tax Appeals.

Resolution Still Far Off

Stephen Jones, general counsel for the Board of Tax Appeals, told Bloomberg BNA that it will take several weeks for the board to review the record and begin discussions with the attorneys aimed at determining how to proceed. “It would be great if everyone decided that the record was complete and that we could proceed directly to the board’s decision, but the most important thing is to let the attorneys decide for themselves if the record is complete,” he said.

Once the record is complete, the board will have 90 days by statute to render a decision, Jones said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Revenue declined to comment on the development.

Jay Heidrick, a shareholder with Polsinelli PC in Kansas City, Mo., who represents the Bicknells, wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Last year, the Kansas Legislature overwhelmingly voted to override Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) veto of a property tax bill that will grant additional rights to taxpayers like the Bicknells seeking to appeal administrative rulings by the state Board of Tax Appeals.

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Brown in St. Louis at ChrisBrown@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ryan C. Tuck at rtuck@bna.com

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