Tetra Tech EC Inc. v. Department of Revenue

This case presents a question of law regarding the proper interpretation of a Wisconsin statute, namely Wis. Stat. section 77 .52(2), the “services” sub-section of Wisconsin’s retail sales tax.

Further, this case provides an opportunity for the Wisconsin Supreme Court to address the deference Wisconsin courts afford regulatory agencies when interpreting statutory provisions that ultimately define agencies’ own power and reach. Currently, the courts extend agencies too much deference on these questions of law. Under our state and federal constitutions, the core duty of judges is to say what the law is. Judicial review of agency actions is the last line of defense against the excess of discretionary power in the hands of regulators.

In 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required several paper companies to remediate the environmental impact of harmful chemicals into the Fox River. The collective group of paper companies formed Fox River Remediation, which hired Tetra Tech to perform the remediation. Tetra Tech subsequently hired Stuyvesant Dredging, Inc. (SDI) as a subcontractor. DOR audited the entities and found that Tetra Tech owed sales tax on the portion of its sale for services to Fox River Remediation on SDI’s activities, and Fox River Remediation owed use tax on the purchase of remediation services from Tetra Tech on SDI’s activities. The entities filed petitions for redetermination with DOR, then with the Tax Appeals Commission. A Wisconsin circuit court, then appeals court upheld the commission’s ruling, giving great weight deference to DOR’s interpretation of tax statutes. The case is now being appealed again at the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Tetra Tech EC Inc. v. DOR Documents
Tetra Tech EC Inc. v. DOR: GLLF Amicus Brief (July 31, 2017)
Tetra Tech EC Inc. v. DOR: Wisconsin Utilities Association Amicus Brief (July 24, 2017)
Tetra Tech EC Inc. v. DOR: Reply Brief of Petitioners-Appellants-Petitioners (July 21, 2017)
Tetra Tech EC Inc. v. DOR
: Motion to File Amicus Brief (July 24, 2017)
Tetra Tech EC Inc. v DOR
: Response Brief of the Department of Revenue
(July 10, 2017)
Tetra Tech EC Inc. v. DOR: Brief of Petitioner-Appellant (May 19, 2017)
Tetra Tech EC Inc. v. DOR: Court of Appeals Opinion (Dec. 28, 2016)
Tetra Tech EC Inc. v. DOR: Court of Appeals Reply Brief of Petitioners-Appellants (Feb. 8, 2016)
Tetra Tech EC Inc. v. DOR: Court of Appeals DOR Response Brief (Jan. 21, 2016)
Tetra Tech EC Inc. v. DOR: Court of Appeals Initial Brief of Petitioners (Dec. 8, 2015)
Tetra Tech EC Inc. v. DOR: Tax Appeals Commission Decision (Dec. 30, 2014)

Other Documents
Gabler v. Crime Victims Rights Board: Supreme Court Opinion (June 27, 2017)
WI DWD v. WI LIRC
: Court of Appeals Opinion
(March 8, 2017)
Operton v. LIRC and Walgreen Co. (May 4, 2017)
Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch (Aug. 23, 2016)
Marquette Law Review: Elected to Decide: Is the Decision-Avoidance Doctrine of Great Weight Deference Appropriate in this Court of Last Resort? (Spring 2006)

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