Lawn company fails to reap tax break at court

LANSING (AP) - A lawn care company hoping to harvest a significant tax break has failed to break ground at the Michigan appeals court.

TruGreen said it should qualify for a certain tax exemption on seed, fertilizer, insecticides and other products used to enhance the lawns of customers. It wants to be treated like farmers who till and plant or raise livestock.

TruGreen latched on to a key phrase in Michigan law referring to "things of the soil." But the appeals court, in a 2-1 decision last Friday, said the company's services don't qualify.

"TruGreen plants grass and cares for it. ... The term 'things of the soil' pertains to the products of farms and horticultural businesses, not blades of well-tended grass," said Judge Elizabeth Gleicher.

Judge Brock Swartzle wrote a 13-page dissent, chiding Gleicher and Judge Douglas Shapiro. He said there is no phrase in the law applying the tax exemption strictly to "agricultural production."

Lawmakers "instead chose a logically broader one, 'things of the soil,'" Swartzle said. "Under the plain meaning and statutory context of the use-tax exemption, TruGreen remains on solid ground."

Published: Tue, Apr 14, 2020