Michigan Aircraft Owner Not a Lessor Qualifying for Rental Receipts Election

An assessment for Michigan use tax due on the purchase of an aircraft was upheld because the taxpayer did not qualify as a lessor for the rental receipts election. The taxpayer paid use tax on rental receipts from leases entered into with related and unrelated parties, but the overall activities of the taxpayer showed that it was not truly “engaged in the business of renting or leasing tangible personal property to others.” The leases were not considered arm’s length transactions because they reflected below-market rates. The taxpayer also did not make substantial efforts to advertise itself as a leasing business. Instead, the taxpayer’s advertisements made references to partial ownership. The number of hours that the aircraft was leased to related parties far outnumbered the hours the aircraft was leased to unrelated parties. All of these actions reflected a fractional or joint ownership rather than a leasing business. As such, the use tax assessment on the purchase price of the aircraft was upheld. (Heidrich Aviation LLC v. Department of Treasury, Michigan Tax Tribunal, No. 358557, December 9, 2011)

Posted on May 21, 2012