(a) The prevailing party may be awarded a judgment for reasonable litigation costs incurred, in the case of any civil proceeding brought by or against the State of California in a court of record of this state in connection with the determination, collection, or refund of any tax, interest, or penalty under this part.
(b) (1) A judgment for reasonable litigation costs shall not be awarded under subdivision (a) unless the court determines that the prevailing party has exhausted all administrative remedies available to that party under this part, including the filing of an appeal as provided in Section 19324. Any failure to agree to an extension of the time for the assessment of any tax shall not be taken into account for purposes of determining whether the prevailing party meets the requirements of the preceding sentence.
(2) An award under subdivision (a) shall be made only for reasonable litigation costs which are allocable to the State of California and not to any other party to the action or proceeding.
(3) No award for reasonable litigation costs may be made under subdivision (a) with respect to any portion of the civil proceeding during which the prevailing party has unreasonably protracted that proceeding.
(c) For purposes of this section:
(1) “Reasonable litigation costs” includes any of the following:
(A) Reasonable court costs.
(B) Based upon prevailing market rates for the kind or quality of services furnished, any of the following:
(i) The reasonable expenses of expert witnesses in connection with the civil proceeding, except that no expert witness shall be compensated at a rate in excess of the highest rate of compensation for expert witnesses paid by the State of California.
(ii) The reasonable cost of any study, analysis, engineering report, test, or project which is found by the court to be necessary for the preparation of the party’s case.
(iii) Reasonable fees paid or incurred for the services of attorneys in connection with the civil proceeding, except that those fees shall not be in excess of one hundred twenty-five dollars ($125) per hour unless the court determines that a special factor, such as the limited availability of qualified attorneys for the proceeding, the difficulty of the issues presented in the case, or the local availability of tax expertise justifies a higher rate. In the case of each calendar year beginning with calendar year 2001, the Franchise Tax Board shall recompute the dollar amount referred to in the preceding sentence. That computation shall be made by increasing the amount in this clause by an amount equal to the cost-of-living adjustment determined under subdivision (h) of Section 17041. If any resulting dollar amount is not a multiple of ten dollars ($10), that dollar amount shall be rounded to the nearest multiple of ten dollars ($10).
(iv) The court may award reasonable attorney fees under subdivision (a) in excess of the attorney fees paid or incurred if the fees are less than the reasonable attorneys’ fees because the attorney is representing the prevailing party for no fee or for a fee which (taking into account all the facts and circumstances) is no more than a nominal fee. This clause shall apply only if the award is paid to the attorney or the attorney’s employer.
(2) (A) “Prevailing party” means any party to any proceeding described in subdivision (a) (other than the State of California or any creditor of the taxpayer involved) that meets either of the following criteria:
(i) Has substantially prevailed with respect to the amount in controversy.
(ii) Has substantially prevailed with respect to the most significant issue or set of issues presented.
(B) (i) A party shall not be treated as the prevailing party in a proceeding to which subdivision (a) applies if the State of California establishes that its position in the proceeding was substantially justified.
(ii) For purposes of clause (i), the position of the State of California shall be presumed not to be substantially justified if the Franchise Tax Board did not follow its applicable published guidance in the administrative proceeding. This presumption may be rebutted.
(iii) For purposes of clause (ii), the term “applicable published guidance” means either of the following:
(I) A regulation, legal ruling, notice, information release, or announcement.
(II) Any chief counsel ruling or determination letter issued to the taxpayer.
(iv) For purposes of clause (i), in determining whether the position of the Franchise Tax Board was substantially justified, the court shall take into account whether the Franchise Tax Board has lost in any California Court of Appeal in another district on substantially similar issues, as reflected in a decision certified for publication.
(C) Any determination under this paragraph as to whether a party is a prevailing party shall be made by either of the following:
(i) The court.
(ii) An agreement of the parties.
(3) The term “civil proceeding” includes a civil action.
(d) For purposes of this section, in the case of multiple actions which could have been joined or consolidated, or a case or cases involving a return or returns of the same taxpayer (including joint returns of married individuals) which could have been joined in a single proceeding in the same court, the actions or cases shall be treated as one civil proceeding regardless of whether the joinder or consolidation actually occurs, unless the court in which the action is brought determines, in its discretion, that it would be inappropriate to treat the actions or cases as joined or consolidated for purposes of this section.
(e) An order granting or denying an award for reasonable litigation costs under subdivision (a), in whole or in part, shall be incorporated as a part of the decision or judgment in the case and shall be subject to appeal in the same manner as the decision or judgment.
(f) For purposes of this section, “position of the State of California” includes either of the following:
(1) The position taken by the State of California in the civil proceeding.
(2) Any administrative action or inaction by the Franchise Tax Board (and all subsequent administrative action or inaction) upon which that proceeding is based.
(g) The amendments made by the act amending this subdivision are effective for costs incurred and services performed more than 180 days after the effective date of the act amending this subdivision.
(Amended by Stats. 1999, Ch. 931, Sec. 33. Effective October 10, 1999.)
Last modified: October 25, 2018