NEWSWEEK, INC. v. FLORIDA DEP'T OF REVENUE
In 1988, a Florida statutory provision exempted newspapers, but not magazines, from sales tax. In 1990, the Florida Supreme Court found the classification invalid under the First Amendment. Subsequently, Newsweek, a magazine, filed a claim for a refund of the sales tax that it had paid between 1988 and 1990. The Florida Department of Revenue denied the refund. Newsweek then filed suit alleging that Florida's failure to accord the magazine retroactive relief was a violation of due process. Ultimately, the District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District, concluded Newsweek was afforded due process because Florida law permits prepayment tax challenges by filing an action and paying the contested amount into the court registry, posting a bond, or obtaining a court order approving an alternative arrangement, without suffering onerous penalties.
Did the District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District, err in denying Newsweek access to Florida postpayment remedies for a refund of the taxes it paid under an unconstitutional sales tax scheme?
Legal provision: Due Process
Yes. In a unanimous per curiam opinion, the Court held that "Newsweek is entitled to a clear and certain remedy and thus it can use [Florida] refund procedures to adjudicate the merits of its claim." The opinion stated that "[w]hile Florida may be free to require taxpayers to litigate first and pay later, due process prevents it from applying this requirement to taxpayers, like Newsweek, who reasonably relied on the apparent availability of a postpayment refund when paying the tax."