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Bankruptcy Litigation Tax United States Supreme Court

Supreme Court Defers to State Law on Ownership of Tax Refund

High Court Rejects Application of Bob Roberts Rule

Federal courts should “turn to state law to resolve” a “fight over a tax refund,” held a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court in Rodriquez v. FDIC (In re United W Bancorp., Inc.)

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Federal courts should “turn to state law to resolve” a “fight over a tax refund,” held a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 25, 2020. Rodriquez v. FDIC (In re United W Bancorp., Inc.), 589 U.S. ___, 2020 WL 889191 (Feb. 25, 2020). Vacating a Tenth Circuit decision, the Supreme Court remanded the case for the lower court to apply state law in resolving “the distribution of a consolidated corporate tax refund.” The bankruptcy trustee of a bank holding company was litigating against the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), as receiver for the subsidiary bank that had incurred losses generating the refund. According the Supreme Court, it was not deciding “[w]ho is right about all this ….” Id. at 4. Instead, the Court rejected the Tenth Circuit’s application of the Ninth Circuit’s so‑called Bob Richards rule. In re Bob Richards Chrysler‑Plymouth Corp., 473 F.2d 262, 265 (9th Cir. 1973) (in absence of tax allocation agreement, refund belongs to group member responsible for losses that led to it). In so doing, the Supreme Court rejected the Bob Richards rule as inappropriate federal “common lawmaking.”

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