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Cable One, Inc. v. Oklahoma State Board of Equalization

Court of Appeals of Oklahoma, Division II

March 24, 2017

CABLE ONE, INC., Plaintiff/Appellee,
v.
OKLAHOMA STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION, and OKLAHOMA TAX COMMISSION, Defendants/Appellants.

          Mandate Issued: 10/03/2017

         APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF OKLAHOMA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA HONORABLE PATRICIA G. PARRISH, TRIAL JUDGE

          William K. Elias, ELIAS BOOKS BROWN & NELSON, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Cherie R. Kiser, pro hac vice, CAHILL GORDON & REINDEL, LLP, Washington, DC, and Thorn Rosenthal, pro hac vice, CAHILL GORDON & REINDEL, LLP, New York, NY, for Plaintiff/Appellee

          Joe M. Hampton, Amy J. Pierce, CORBYN HAMPTON, PLLC, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Lee Pugh, GENERAL COUNSEL, OKLAHOMA TAX COMMISSION, Taylor P. Henderson, ASSISTANT GENERAL COUNSEL, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Defendants/Appellants

          JERRY L. GOODMAN, JUDGE

         ¶1 Plaintiff Cable One (Cable One) and Defendants Oklahoma State Board of Equalization (OSBE) and Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) (collectively OSBE/OTC) appeal the trial court's March 15, 2015, judgment. Cable One asserts the trial court erred in finding Cable One was a "transmission company" and OSBE/OTC assert the trial court erred in finding Cable One was not subject to ad valorem taxation despite being a cable television company offering phone services.

         ¶2 The appeal was assigned to the accelerated docket pursuant to Oklahoma Supreme Court Rule 1.36(a)(1), 12 O.S.2011, Supp. 2013, Ch. 15, App. 1 and In Re Amendments to Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules, 2013 OK 67.

         ¶3 Based on our review of the facts and applicable law, we reverse in part, affirm in part, and remand for further proceedings.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶4 According to its December 20, 2013, petition, [1] Cable One alleged it is a Delaware corporation authorized to do business in Oklahoma as a cable television company offering cable television, cable modem (internet access) and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services to Oklahoma subscribers within a defined geographic area. It claims it has traditionally been locally valued and assessed ad valorem taxes by the assessor in the counties in which it owns property. However, for tax year 2013, OSBE/OTC reclassified Cable One as a public service or public transmission company to be centrally valued and assessed ad valorem taxes, which OTC collects. Cable One contends this was error. It seeks a refund of excess ad valorem taxes paid pursuant to the central assessment, and injunctive relief enjoining OSBE/OTC from centrally assessing ad valorem taxes for tax year 2013 and future tax years.

         I. Ad Valorem Provisions

         ¶5 Oklahoma's Ad Valorem Tax Code, 68 O.S.2011 and Supp. 2015 §§ 2801 through 2899, requires the "property of all... public service corporations shall be assessed annually by the State Board of Equalization...." § 2847(A). A public service corporation is defined as follows:

A. As used in the Ad Valorem Tax Code:
1. "Public service corporation" means all... transmission companies, ...;
...
3. "Transmission company" means any company, corporation, ... owning, leasing or operating for hire any... telephone line...;
...
B. As used in the Ad Valorem Tax Code, "transmission company" and "public service corporation" shall not be construed to include cable television companies.

§ 2808(A), (B).

         II. Central vs. Local ...


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