Deference to Administrative Agency


Alabama Department of Revenue v. Bryant Bank, [Ms. 2170550, 2170555, Sept. 14, 2018] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2018). This unanimous decision by Judge Moore (Judges Thomas and Donaldson recuse) reverses the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court’s judgment awarding a tax credit to Bryant Bank on its appeal from the Department’s final assessment in a dispute over the New Markets Tax Credit set out in § 41-9-216, et seq., Ala. Code 1975. The appeal turned on the construction of the phrase “the state-distributed portion of the tax otherwise due set out in § 41-9-218(10) of the act.” Ms. *5. On de novo review of the summary judgment in favor of Bryant Bank, the court concluded the phrase was ambiguous because the differing constructions of the phrase proffered by the Department and Bryant Bank were both reasonable. Ms. *8. The court reversed and afforded deference to the Department’s interpretation of the statute because:

“It is well settled that in interpreting a statute, a court accepts an administrative interpretation of the statute by the agency charged with its administration, if that interpretation is reasonable. Ex parte State Department of Revenue, [683 So. 2d 980 (Ala. 1996)] (citing Alabama Metallurgical Corp. v. Alabama Pub. Serv. Comm’n, 441 So. 2d 565 (Ala. 1983)). Absent a compelling reason not to do so, the court will give great weight to an agency’s interpretation of a statute and will consider them persuasive. Ex parte State Department of Revenue, supra (citing Moody v. Ingram, 361 So. 2d 513 (Ala. 1978)).”

Ms. *8-9, quoting Surtees v. VFJ Ventures, Inc., 8 So. 3d 950, 968 (Ala. Civ. App. 2008) (some internal quote marks omitted).

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