OF JUDGMENT: 06/17/2016
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, HON. C. MICHAEL MALSKI JUDGE.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: WILLIAM C. STENNETT.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: JON FRANCIS CARMER JR. MORTON WARD
CARLTON, P.J., LAWRENCE AND C. WILSON, JJ.
Ali Almasri appeals the Lee County Chancery Court's
dismissal of his five appeals for lack of jurisdiction. On
appeal, Almasri also challenges the constitutionality of
Mississippi Code Annotated section 27-77-7 (Rev. 2010).
Because Almasri failed to comply with section 27-77-7, we
find Almasri's constitutional challenge procedurally
barred and affirm the chancery court's judgment.
In 2012, Almasri owned and operated several convenience
stores in Tupelo, Mississippi. The Mississippi Department of
Revenue (MDOR) audited Almasri's businesses in August
2012 for sales tax, special county tax, and withholding tax.
The MDOR also audited Almasri's individual income tax. In
June 2013, the MDOR issued tax assessments against Almasri
for sales tax ($55, 091), special county tax ($665),
withholding tax ($14, 565), E-911 prepaid wireless tax ($9,
778), and individual income tax ($24, 230). The assessments
totaled $104, 329.
Almasri appealed to the MDOR's Board of Review (Board),
which affirmed all five assessments but reduced Almasri's
sales tax assessment from $55, 091 to $49, 141, and special
county tax assessment from $665 to $352. The reduction in
special county tax reduced Almasri's individual income
tax assessment by $8, 712. Almasri's revised assessments
totaled $89, 354. He subsequently appealed to the Board of
Tax Appeals (BTA), which held a hearing on March 18, 2015. On
September 16, 2015, the BTA affirmed the Board's decision
through five separate orders.
On November 13, 2015, Almasri appealed all five orders to Lee
County Chancery Court. The MDOR filed a motion to dismiss,
arguing that the chancery court lacked appellate jurisdiction
based on Almasri's failure to post a surety bond of
one-half the amount in controversy with his petition or
prepay the assessment under protest. See Miss. Code
Ann. § 27-7-7 (Rev. 2010). On May 24, 2016, the court
held a hearing on the motion. At the hearing, Almasri's
attorney admitted that Almasri failed to post a bond when he
appealed or prepay the assessments under protest. He claimed
Almasri was unable to pay. Notably, the attorney did not
provide an affidavit or sworn testimony regarding
Almasri's inability to pay. Instead, he offered into
evidence five "property bond" drafts for the
court's consideration. The chancery court ultimately
found it lacked jurisdiction based on Almasri's failure
to post a bond or prepay the taxes under protest.
Accordingly, the court granted MDOR's motion to dismiss.
"Jurisdiction and statutory interpretation are matters
of law and, therefore, we review de novo a trial court's
rulings on such matters." 5K Farms Inc. v. Miss.
Dep't of ...