No Jury for State Tax Disputes

Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice

California taxpayers have no constitutional right to a jury trial to resolve disputed tax refunds.  The state Supreme Court unanimously rejected the notion that taxpayers may ask a jury to decide whether they should get a tax refund in disputes with the Franchise Tax Board.

The case stems from the claim by Tom Gonzales, representing his son’s estate, filed a complaint in 2006 alleging that the estate had paid over $15 million as part of a tax amnesty program and reserved the right to seek a refund.  His complaint in San Francisco County Superior Court sought a refund of state personal income taxes from 2000 and 2001 and demanded a jury trial. 

The California Supreme Court rejected the claim of a state constitutional right to a jury trial saying it long ago recognized that tax proceedings are different, particularly in the area of tax collection.

Case: Franchise Tax Board v. Sup. Ct. of San Francisco (Gonzales) No. S176943  (Ca Supreme Ct.)

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