In Florida Power & Light Co vs The United States, US Court of Federal Claims, 99-258T, April 29, 2003, the court has held that the electric utility company could not rely on private letter rulings exempting competitors from highway use tax under a similar factual context because the utility never sought a private letter ruling of its own.
Florida Power & Light uses various types of specially designed trucks essential to the operation and maintenance of its power distribution system. The chassis of these trucks, as supplied by the original manufacturer, included certain non-standard features. In addition, virtually all of the vehicles at issue also were equipped with a pintle-type trailer hitch and a trailer towing package. With the addition of the pintle hook, the vehicles, depending on their gross combined weight ratings, have towing capacities ranging from 6,000 to 20,000 pounds.
The utility filed a Claim for Refund of Excise Taxes claiming that the years at issue “incorrectly included vehicles which do not meet the definition of a ‘highway use’ vehicle.”
The Internal Revenue Service notified plaintiff that it intended to disallow the claim for refund, noting that the trucks were also equipped with pintle hooks that permitted the trucks to tow trailers. The plaintiff challenged the proposed disallowance of its refund claim, arguing that the transportation characteristics of its trucks should be determined on the basis of the machinery and equipment that the vehicles were specifically designed to haul.