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Northern Illinois Gas Co. v. United States

decided: September 10, 1984.

NORTHERN ILLINOIS GAS COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 80 C 3873 -- Nicholas J. Bua, Judge.

Pell and Flaum, Circuit Judges, and Henley, Senior Circuit Judge.*fn*

Author: Flaum

FLAUM, Circuit Judge.

The appellant Northern Illinois Gas Company brought this action in federal district court seeking a refund of $483.03 paid in highway motor vehicle use taxes. The government denied that the appellant was entitled to a refund and counterclaimed for the outstanding balance of the assessments made against the appellant, $93,205.25, plus interest. The district court ruled in favor of the government. 554 F. Supp. 371. We affirm.

I.

The appellant owns a number of utility trucks that are equipped with pintle hooks*fn1 suitable for towing heavy trailers. The issue in this case is the validity of a treasury regulation and revenue ruling permitting the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to tax these trucks as though they were customarily used in combination with heavy trailers, without first determining whether trucks of that type are in fact customarily used with heavy trailers.

Section 4481(a) of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. ยง 4481(a) (1982), provides:

A tax is hereby imposed on the use of any highway motor vehicle which (together with the semitrailers and trailers customarily used in connection with highway motor vehicles of the same type as such highway motor vehicles) has a taxable gross weight of more than 26,000 pounds . . . (emphasis added).

Taxable gross weight is defined in section 4482(b) as follows:

(1) the actual unloaded weight of --

(A) such highway motor vehicle fully equipped for service, and

(B) the semitrailers or trailers (fully equipped for service) customarily used in connection with highway motor vehicles of the same type as such highway motor vehicle, and

(2) the weight of the maximum load customarily carried on highway motor vehicles of the same type as such highway motor vehicle and on the semitrailers and trailers referred to in paragraph (1)(B) (emphasis added).

Section 4482(b) also gives the Secretary of the Treasury the authority to determine taxable gross weight through regulations, "which regulations may include formulas or other methods for determining the taxable gross ...


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