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Firm Loses Bid for Interest on Harbor Tax Refund

May 28, 2003|From Bloomberg News

United States Shoe Corp. lost a U.S. Supreme Court appeal Tuesday that it called a test case for thousands of companies seeking $700 million in interest on the refund of a federal harbor tax on exports.

The company said at least 7,500 companies sought refunds after the justices struck down the federal harbor maintenance tax on exported goods in 1998. An appeals court ruled that the government didn't owe interest on the refund to United States Shoe, and the justices denied the company's appeal without comment.

United States Shoe, a unit of Milan, Italy-based Luxottica Group, said the companies sought $1.4 billion in tax refunds, plus $700 million in interest, after the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution bars the tax from being imposed on exports.

The tax, enacted in 1986 to pay for maintaining port facilities, remains in effect for importers and domestic shippers.

A group of companies including General Electric Co., Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Monsanto Co. filed a separate appeal also seeking interest on their tax refunds. That appeal also was denied review.

ChevronTexaco Corp. and the American Assn. of Exporters and Importers filed court briefs supporting United States Shoe.

The harbor maintenance tax is equal to 0.125% of the value of commercial cargo loaded or unloaded in any U.S. port. The money is used to pay for maintenance and construction of port and harbor facilities. The tax originally was set at 0.04% and was increased in 1990.

The Supreme Court's unanimous ruling that barred imposition of the tax on exports faulted Congress for tying the levy to the value of the cargo shipped through the port rather than to the harbor services used by each shipper.

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