Laws, Regulations & Annotations

Business Taxes Law Guide – Revision 2018

Sales And Use Tax Court Decisions

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Santa Barbara Optical Co., Inc. v. State Board of Equalization . . . (1975)

A Class Action Can Be Brought Against the Board for Refund of Sales Taxes Based on a Class Refund Claim

Plaintiffs brought a class action against the Board for refund of sales taxes paid by them and others similarly situated. The Board demurred on the ground that the complaint contained no allegation that the unnamed plaintiffs had filed claims as required by law. The trial court sustained the demurrer, but the court of appeal reversed with directions to the trial court to overrule the demurrer.

The Revenue and Taxation Code makes the filing of a claim for refund with the Board mandatory. However, the court held that "claimant" must be equated with the class itself and rejected the contention that individual claims must be filed for each member of the class where the claim by the plaintiffs was filed for themselves and for all others similarly situated. The court also rejected the Board's argument that it is impossible to act on a claim for refund where there are unnamed claimants and no specific amount is claimed, stating that the Board could determine the identity of each unnamed plaintiff and the amount of his tax payments from the Board's own records.

The court found that there is an ascertainable class with a well defined community of interest in the questions of law and fact affecting the parties; and that a class action is therefore proper. Santa Barbara Optical Co., Inc. v. State Board of Equalization (1975) 47 Cal.App.3d 244 [disapproved to the extent inconsistent with Woosley v. State of California (1992) 3 Cal.4th 758].