Rizzo v. MI Dep't of Treasury, No. 13-1230 (6th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
In 2011 Rizzo filed a voluntary petition for personal Chapter 7 bankruptcy and received a general discharge. Despite his discharge, the Michigan Department of Treasury sent collection letters demanding that he pay $72,286.39 in delinquent Single Business Tax that had been assessed against a company, for which Rizzo had been an officer. Rizzo filed an adversary action, contending that his personal liability for the unpaid SBT had been discharged in bankruptcy. Treasury claimed that liability for the SBT deficiency is a nondischargeable “excise tax” debt under 11 U.S.C. 507(a)(8)(E). The bankruptcy court agreed and dismissed. The district court and Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Rizzo’s argument that the debt was derivative, not primary, and therefore not an excise tax. Rizzo conceded that the unpaid SBT was an “excise tax” deficiency as to the company and did not dispute that he was personally liable for the company’s unpaid tax under state law. Michigan law simply confers derivative liability upon Rizzo for precisely the same excise tax deficiency that was assessed against the company.