Lynn Gandhi Comments on Michigan Supreme Court Case Involving Agricultural Tax Break for Lawn Care Company

06 April 2022 Tax Notes News

Foley Partner Lynn Gandhi was quoted in the Tax Notes article, “Michigan High Court Weighs Agricultural Tax Break for Lawn Care Company,” about the Michigan Supreme Court considering whether a lawn care company, TruGreen, qualifies for a use tax exemption designed for property used in agriculture.

In an April 1, 2022 order, the court announced that it would hear oral arguments on whether to grant the company leave to appeal in TruGreen Limited Partnership v. Department of Treasury. A divided appellate panel ruled in 2020 and again in 2021 that TruGreen is not eligible for the exemption under Mich. Comp. Laws section 205.94(1)(f) because the statute applies to agricultural businesses.

As reported in the article, the specific issue that interests the supreme court in this matter is pinpointed in the court’s order, which requests supplemental briefing from TruGreen regarding whether the company qualifies for the exemption “because its consumption or use of fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides constitutes ‘caring for … things of soil’” (quoting section 205.94(1)(f)).

Gandhi, who filed an amicus brief in support of TruGreen on behalf of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, commented that the supreme court narrowed the focus of the briefing to this specific question – a question that was “well addressed by Judge Swartzle in his dissenting opinion at the Court of Appeals.” Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Brock A. Swartzle, who dissented from both appellate decisions in TruGreen, wrote in his 2020 dissent that a “reasonable reader knows what ‘things of the soil’ means.’”

Gandhi told Tax Notes that the Michigan Chamber of Commerce concurs with Swartzle’s “plain reading of the statute” and said that the “granting of oral argument and briefing on the focused inquiry provides an opportunity for Appellant, and its amicus, to be heard.”

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