The California Office of Tax Appeals held the Franchise Tax Board abused its discretion in failing to abate interest for a 248-day delay caused by the FTB’s failure to assign a protest hearing officer to the taxpayer’s protest. Taxpayer wins involving interest abatement requests on appeal are fairly uncommon in California and even more uncommon in precedential opinions. This makes exploring a taxpayer’s recent win before the OTA especially worthy.
The FTB has discretionary authority to abate interest related to a proposed deficiency to the extent the interest is attributable in whole or in part to an unreasonable error or delay by an officer or employee of the FTB in performing a ministerial or managerial act. On appeal, the OTA only reviews FTB’s interest abatement determinations for abuse of discretion. This makes a taxpayer’s burden of proof on appeal much greater than the ordinary preponderance of the evidence standard. The taxpayer must show the FTB exercised its discretion “arbitrarily, capriciously, or without sound basis in fact or law.”