Phelps Dunbar recently defeated tax assessments worth over $3 million issued to firm client, SP Plus Corporation.
The case centered around a parking garage that SP Plus built, manages and operates in downtown New Orleans. At question was whether the tax assessments on the property – dating back to 2012 – were timely or appropriate.
Phelps argued that the tax assessments were time barred and that the garage was exempt from property tax. In its case, Phelps said the property was exempt because it was owned by a political subdivision and the garage – located by City Hall and adjacent to the Tulane Medical Center – also served a public purpose to provide affordable parking to those government, hospital and city employees.
In August 2019, Judge Rachael Johnson ruled in SP Plus and HEAL’s favor, finding that the garage was exempt from ad valorem taxes and that any tax bill issued on the garage to be invalid. The assessor did not file an appeal before the deadline, and thus, the ruling in favor of SP Plus is final.
In its ruling, the Court relied on another case handled by Phelps, Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans v. City of New Orleans. In that case, the court found that property owned by private landowners and leased to the Port may be found exempt from taxation if it served a public purpose. Phelps prevailed in that suit in 2016.
Chris Ralston led the team, which included Margaret Viator and Matthew Slaughter. HEAL was represented by Scott Johnson, General Counsel for the Division of Administration. The Assessor was represented by Ken Pickering of Pickering & Cotogno.