The statutory and regulatory deadline for appealing an adverse decision of the Louisiana Tax Commission (the “Commission”) is clearly thirty (30) days, but identifying the event that triggers commencement of the deadline has not always been easy. The applicable statute provides that the appeal deadline runs from the date the decision is “entered,” while the applicable administrative rule provides that the deadline runs from the date the decision is “mailed.” A decision from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal had previously held that a decision was “entered” on the day that the members of Commission signed the decision. In that case, the decision was signed and mailed on the same day.
The courts have finally clarified when the 30 day appeal period begins to run, hopefully resolving this issue for good. In Erroll Williams v. Hotel Ambassador NOLA, LLC, No. 2016-CA-0015 (La. App. 4 Cir. 6/15/16), ___ WL _____, the Commission mailed its decision some eight (8) days after the decision was signed by the members of the Commission. In Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. v. Bossier Parish Board of Review, No. 50,734-CA c/w 50,735-CA (La. App. 2 Cir. 8/10/16), ___ WL ___, the Commission mailed its decision some sixteen (16) days after it was signed. In both cases, the aggrieved litigant appealed within thirty (30) days of the mailing date, but the district courts in each case found the appeal to be untimely. On appeal, both the Fourth Circuit and the Second Circuit noted that the applicable statute did not provide a specific definition of “entry” of judgment. Surveying the cases, the Courts noted that entry of judgment may be the date of signing, but it may also include the date of distribution or the date of mailing. The Courts gave great weight to the fact that each decision stated that it would become effective upon date of issuance (yet another term that is not defined in the applicable statute or administrative rule), and that each decision bore a “true copy” stamp that suggested that the Commission had entered that decision into its own records on that date.
Accordingly, the Courts concluded that entry of judgment occurs on the date that the decision is mailed. As such, each appeal was found to have been timely filed. Both Courts recognized the due process principles that compelled them to hold that entry of judgment cannot occur earlier than the date on which the decision is mailed, noting that to hold otherwise could allow the appeal delay to lapse before the affected party is even sent notice of the decision against it. In each case, the Court reversed and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.