This appeal stems from an attempt by plaintiff General Motors Corporation to avoid a property tax audit. In 1986, the City of Warren, acting under a belief that General Motors had been underreporting its taxable personal property, hired Plante & Moran, an independent accounting firm, to audit General Motors. Later, pursuant to a contractual arrangement with the city, the State Tax Commission hired Plante & Moran to go forward with the audit. At all times, General Motors has refused to submit to the audit, and the matter has ripened into the present action for declaratory judgment.
Essentially, General Motors maintains that the State Tax Commission has no authority to hire an independent accounting firm to conduct a tax audit. We disagree and hold that the State Tax Commission acted properly and within its statutory
Before we reach what plaintiff states is the "singular fact driving this litigation," we must first address plaintiff's contention that there exists an insufficient factual basis to justify the actions taken by the commission in this case. At issue is § 154 of the General Property Tax Act, MCL 211.154; MSA 7.211, which provides in relevant part as follows:
In its first argument on appeal, plaintiff contends that § 154 does not apply to this case because it has never been "made to appear" to the commission that plaintiff was underreporting personal property. Specifically, plaintiff argues that the city has never provided adequate factual support for its claim. We find this argument disingenuous and accordingly reject it. Plaintiff relies on a tax commission bulletin that states that the commission "would like" a notice filed under § 154 to be accompanied by an audit. As noted by the
Plaintiff's next three arguments on appeal merit only cursory discussion. We fail to see how it is relevant that General Motors never refused to be audited by "duly authorized city personnel." Nothing in § 154 prohibits the commission from taking action on an audit performed by private accountants, and plaintiff concedes that it refused to cooperate with Plante & Moran. Furthermore, plaintiff's argument that the circuit court disregarded the time limitations of § 154 is without merit. If in fact no incorrect reporting has been discovered "to this day," it is because General Motors has refused to allow the audit. Finally, we reject plaintiff's contention that the subpoena power provided in MCL 211.148; MSA 7.206 does not apply to the proceedings at issue in this case.
We now turn to the issue at the heart of this
Also relevant is § 2 of the State Tax Commission Act, MCL 209.102; MSA 7.632, which provides in part:
Despite plaintiff's lengthy argument to the contrary, we believe that these provisions plainly authorize the commission to employ the services of a private accounting firm such as Plante and Moran to conduct a tax audit. Furthermore, we fail to see how either the commission's own rules or MCL 211.22a; MSA 7.22(1) precludes the commission from certifying Plante & Moran as personal-property examiners for purposes of conducting an audit under § 148.
We are also not persuaded by plaintiff's argument
On the basis of the foregoing, we hold that the commission acted properly in retaining Plante & Moran to conduct the audit of General Motors. Accordingly, we conclude that defendant was properly awarded summary disposition on plaintiff's complaint for declaratory relief.
In view of our resolution, plaintiff's remaining issue regarding the trial court's refusal to extend the deadline for completion of discovery is now moot. Nevertheless, we deem it appropriate to grant plaintiff partial relief regarding its concern of confidentiality. Accordingly, pursuant to MCR 7.216(A)(7) and (9), we direct the commission to take the necessary steps to ensure that the audit is conducted so as to preserve the confidentiality of any financial information gathered from General Motors.