Thursday, October 8, 2009

More Briefs in Tax Court

A decision in the Sommerdorf equine property tax case is delayed another month. The Court has requested copies of boarding contracts and ordered another round of briefing on the issue whether a "sale" of pasture occurred when boarders signed their boarding contracts.

As we argued in the first and second round of briefs, pasture is forage, and forage is an agricultural product that qualifies a horse boarding property for agricultural classification. But agricultural products must be sold, not just grown; so the issue has come down to whether the pasture horses grazed was "sold" to boarders as food for horses under their boarding contracts.

We'll have a decision by the end of November. But the Court's interest in individual boarding contracts signals the possibility of a decision that won't have much impact on other equine property owners even if we win. Although court decisions have precedential value that courts (and other divisions of government) are supposed to follow, the more fact-specific a case is, the less relevant it may be deemed in other situations. Ultimately this issue will have to be resolved either by legislation or state-wide guidelines establishing which equestrian uses of land are agricultural, and whether additional agricultural products must be sold in order for horse boarding to qualify.