Laws, Regulations & Annotations

Business Taxes Law Guide – Revision 2013
 

Sales And Use Tax Court Decisions


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C

Coleman v. County of Santa Clara . . . (1998)

A District Tax Adopted by a Simple Majority Vote Is Valid Because It Is Not a Special Tax

The voters of Santa Clara County adopted a new district tax during the 1996 general election by a simple majority vote (51.8 percent). This tax was adopted as Measure B, which specified that the ½ percent sales and use tax would be used for general county purposes. During the same election, the voters also approved Measure A by 77.6 percent of the vote. This was characterized in the measure itself and in the voter pamphlet as advisory only. It specified the voters' intent that any new sales tax revenue should be spent on certain projects specified in that measure.

Plaintiffs challenged the new tax as an attempt to circumvent the supermajority requirement for special taxes in that the measures were inseparably linked, meaning that Measure B was actually a special tax requiring a two-thirds vote to be validly adopted rather than a mere majority vote as required for a general tax. The Court of Appeal held that, although the two ballot measures were closely related to each other, they were not, in fact, legally connected. By itself, Measure B was a general tax which could be adopted by majority vote. Despite the passage of Measure A, the County was free to spend Measure B revenue on any and all County purposes without restriction, and the validity of neither measure was dependent on the passage of the other. The court therefore upheld the validity of the new tax. Coleman v. County of Santa Clara (1998) 64 Cal.App.4th 662.