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LA Tax Authorities Violate Separation of Powers in Robinson v. Priceline, New NetChoice Brief Argues

BATON ROUGE, La.—Today, NetChoice filed an amicus brief alongside the Pelican Institute and the Travel Technology Association in support of Priceline and its co-defendants in Robinson v. Priceline, Inc.

In 2016, the Louisiana Department of Revenue tried to pass legislation that would subject online travel facilitators like Priceline to a 1948 tax on hotel accommodations. After failing to persuade the state legislature to amend the tax statute, the Department now asks the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal to subject Priceline to the same tax by judicial fiat in Robinson.

Our amicus brief makes three key arguments:

  1. Louisiana taxation authorities are undermining separation of powers by trying to get the Court to subject online travel facilitators to a tax the legislature explicitly excluded them from.
  2. Springing an unsupported application of a taxing statute on businesses is arbitrary, unfair and undermines the credibility of taxing institutions.
  3. Louisiana’s interpretation of the statute will raise prices on the margins, disincentivizing tourism to Louisiana. 

“The Louisiana State Constitution, like the federal Constitution, vests the power to set taxes in the legislature. Yet the Louisiana Department of Revenue is asking the Court to override the plain meaning of the statute to help the State generate more tax revenue. This is an inappropriate power grab that should be rejected by the Court,” said Nicole Saad Bembridge, Associate Director of the NetChoice Litigation Center. 

“Taxing authorities have a responsibility to clearly explain to taxpayers what the laws are, how they apply and to make compliance as seamless as possible. But in this case, the Louisiana Department of Revenue is neglecting their responsibility to follow these principles.” 

Saad Bembridge continued: “Our brief asks the Court to reject the Department’s effort to undermine separation of powers by affirming the lower court’s judgment that online travel facilitators are not, and have never been, subject to this tax.”

Read NetChoice, the Pelican Institute and the Travel Technology Association’s amicus brief here

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