Judge denies GovGuam's dismissal motion - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Judge denies GovGuam's dismissal motion

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Although the Government of Guam was able to pay out close to $200 million in tax refunds last December, a class action lawsuit will moved forward as a district court judge denied the government's motion to throw out a complaint filed by Jeffrey and Rea Paeste and Sharon Zapanta, who were suing the government for their tax refunds and other problems at the Guam Department of Revenue & Taxation.

Several questions were raised at today's motion hearing before District Court Judge Consuelo Marshall from whether an expedited refund program actually exists to how the Internal Revenue Service conducts refund claims on its end - but it's something that the attorney representing the Paestes and Zapanta can look into, as Judge Marshall ruled in the plaintiff's favor, denying GovGuam's motion to dismiss their class action lawsuit and granting a motion to certify the class.

Lujan, Aguigui and Perez partner Attorney Ignacio Aguigui was happy with the results but says the work's not over, telling KUAM News, "But I think it's a really good result and it's a good opportunity for the taxpayers of Guam to see some sort of institutional reform about how their tax refunds are getting handled and processed and they're getting paid in the matter that they're supposed to be paying paid."

The plaintiffs wanted the court to issue orders compelling the government to pay past year's refunds and ensure that future refunds are administered on time. They have also asked the court to determine that the expedited refund program be deemed unconstitutional and unfair. Aguigui said, "That the government's practice of establishing some sort of system in place where some taxpayers can actually jump ahead of line and get their tax refunds paid, whether by some kind of medical hardship, emergency or some financial emergency needs to be addressed and needs to be ruled on as a part of a matter of law."

Judge Marshall was interested in knowing as the case proceeds how the federal government actually processes refund claims from whether they are paid on a first-in/first-out basis to its timeliness. She also questioned whether the Paestes had received their tax refunds, but Aguigui says speaking with his client about two weeks ago, they still have not. He questions how much the government still owes in past due tax refunds.

Department of Administration director Benita Manglona meanwhile says there are boxes sitting at the Treasurer of Guam filled with unclaimed or returned tax refund checks - about 1,400 in all. "These were refunds that the taxpayers have either moved and they haven't sent their forwarding address to Rev & Tax or they gave the wrong mailing address, maybe the home address and the mail doesn't deliver to that particular home address," she shared.

She says until a banking reconciliation is conducted at the end of the month, they can't determine how much money actually haven't cleared assuming they were either returned or haven't been deposited yet. She recommends those who haven't received a tax refund check yet to visit the Treasurer of Guam or call 475-1268 or 475-1122.

Judge Marshall meanwhile allowed the plaintiff to submit a proposed order where they will refine the class definition by January 30, which Attorney Aguigui says its basically Guam taxpayers who have filed a claim for a refund and who are owed a refund by the Government of Guam.  The defendants meanwhile are given until February 3 to file any objections to the plaintiff's proposed order. 

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