Wednesday, October 24, 2018

MCI Communications Inc. v. California Dep't Tax Admin. (Cal. Ct. app. - Oct. 24, 2018)

This is an otherwise boring tax case, as well as one that reaches what seems to me a straightforward resolution of the thing.  So I'm not mentioning the opinion for that reason.

(In case you're wondering what it's actually about, here's Justice Guerrero's helpful synopsis:  "The California Sales and Use Tax Law (Rev. & Tax. Code, § 6001 et seq.) (SUTL) imposes sales and use taxes on retailers and purchasers for the sale, use, storage, or consumption of tangible personal property within California. Certain categories of property are excluded from the definition of tangible personal property and therefore are not subject to sales and use taxation. Under section 6016.5, one such category of excluded property includes "telephone and telegraph lines, electrical transmission and distribution lines, and the poles, towers, or conduit by which they are supported or in which they are contained." This appeal requires us to decide whether the tax exclusion in section 6016.5 extends to the pre-installation component parts that may one day be incorporated into completed telephone and telegraph systems. We hold that section 6016.5 excludes only fully installed and completed telephone and telegraph lines from sales and use taxation, not the pre-installation component parts of such lines. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment."  Seems exactly right to me.)

Instead, here's the sum total of my reaction to the case:

"Wait.  MCI's still around?!"

Those of us who grew up in a certain era -- post-breakup of AT&T but pre-cell phones -- remember the days when long distance was expensive (but not absurdly expensive) and a valuable commodity.  For kids, having to spend $20 a month (or whatever) on phone calls to long-distance girlfriends (or whatever) was no small expenditure.  So we -- or at least I -- shopped around, and one of the major players in the long distance industry was MCI.

But that was then.  I haven't heard of the company since then.  Apparently it was bought by WorldCom (another infamous company of a different era) and then bought by Verizon and substantially disappeared.  Seems like true long distance providers of the MCI type don't really even exist at this point.

But, so it seems, they live on as corporate shells.  Hence today's opinion involving taxation of MCI.

Who knew?!  A memorable relic from a bygone time.