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Daimler Chrysler Financial Services Americas, LLC v. Colorado Department of Revenue

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Fifth Division

March 13, 2014

Daimler Chrysler Financial Services Americas, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Colorado Department of Revenue, Defendant-Appellee.

City and County of Denver District Court No. 12CV390 Honorable Norman D. Haglund, Judge

Lathrop & Gage, LLP, George G. Matava, Donald E. Lake, III, Denver, Colorado; Akerman Senterfitt P.A., Michael Bowen, Jacksonville, Florida, for Plaintiff-Appellant

John W. Suthers, Attorney General, Robert H. Dodd, Jr., Senior Assistant Attorney General, Brendan C. Reese, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellee

OPINION

NIETO JUDGE [*]

¶ 1 Plaintiff, Daimler Chrysler Financial Services Americas, LLC (Daimler), appeals the judgment denying its claim for a tax credit or refund from defendant, Colorado Department of Revenue, under subsection 39-26-102(5), C.R.S. 2013. We affirm.

I. Background

¶ 2 Consumers purchased motor vehicles from several motor vehicle dealers using retail installment contracts secured by liens on the vehicles. At the times of the sales, the dealers assigned all of their rights under the contracts to Daimler, who paid the dealers the entire amounts due on the contracts, including the sales taxes. The dealers then remitted the sales taxes to the Department of Revenue. Daimler asserts that it acted as a "unit" or in a "group" with the dealers in the sale and financing of the vehicles. It does not assert any ownership of or right to control the dealers.

¶ 3 When certain consumers defaulted on their contracts, Daimler repossessed the vehicles securing those purchasers' obligations. Even after repossession and sale of the collateral, unpaid balances remained on some of those contracts. Daimler charged off those debts for federal income tax purposes. After charging off the debts, Daimler sought a bad debt tax credit or refund from the Department of Revenue, and the Department of Revenue denied this claim. Daimler then filed suit in district court, and the district court also denied the claim.

¶ 4 Daimler now appeals.

II. Analysis

¶ 5 Relying on the definition of "[t]axpayer" in subsections 39-26-102(6) and (17), Daimler contends that (1) the district court erred in holding that Daimler and the dealers did not constitute a "group or combination acting as a unit" for purposes of Daimler's claim for relief under subsection 39-26-102(5); (2) in the alternative, the district court erred in determining that the dealers could not provide Daimler with valid assignments of their rights to relief under subsection 39-26-102(5); and (3) the district court erred in deciding that the General Assembly's amendments to subsection 39-26-703(2)(b), C.R.S. 2013, did not violate due process under the United States and Colorado Constitutions as legislation retrospective in application. U.S. Const. amend XIV; Colo. Const. art II, § 11 ("No . . . law . . . retrospective in its operation . . . shall be passed by the general assembly."). We conclude that Daimler has not shown grounds for reversal.

A. Standard of Review

¶ 6 Statutory construction is a question of law which we review de novo. Specialty Rests. Corp. v. Nelson, 231 P.3d 393, 397 (Colo. 2010). The primary objective of statutory construction is to effectuate the General Assembly's intent. Id. The legislature is presumed to intend that various parts of a comprehensive scheme are consistent with and apply to each other and must be understood to harmonize the whole. BP Am. Prod. Co. v. Patterson, 185 P.3d 811, 813 (Colo. 2008). If a statute's language is clear, we interpret the statute according to its plain and ordinary meaning. Specialty Rests., 231 P.3d at 397.

¶ 7 When two statutory provisions conflict, the specific provision prevails over the general provision unless the general provision is the later adoption and the General Assembly manifested clear intent for the general provision to prevail. People in Interest of W.P., 2013 CO 11, ¶ 12, 295 P.3d 514, 519. "Of two conflicting statutes, the one applying narrowly to a particular circumstance is more specific than an enactment providing for a generally applicable regulatory scheme." Gessler v. Doty, 2012 COA 4, ¶ 19, 272 P.3d 1131, 1134. The specific provision prevails in order to construe the two provisions in harmony without having to discard one. People v.Cooper, 27 P.3d 348, 355 (Colo. 2001). If general provisions prevailed over ...


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