Sonoma Apartment Associates v. United States, No. 18-1781 (Fed. Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Section 515 of the Housing Act of 1949, 42 U.S.C. 1485, authorizes the Department of Agriculture, Farmers Home Administration to loan money to nonprofit entities to provide rental housing for elderly and low- and moderate-income individuals and families. Sonoma, a limited partnership contracted with the government to construct low-income housing in exchange for a $1,261,080 Section 515 loan. In 2010, Sonoma submitted a written request to prepay the balance of its loan. The government denied the request. Sonoma sued for breach of contract, including a claim for a “tax neutralization payment” to offset the negative tax consequences of a lumpsum damages award. The Claims Court awarded Sonoma expectancy damages of $4,223,328 and a tax gross-up award of $3,171,990. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Claims Court clearly erred in using the income from a single tax year to predict the future rates at which each partner would pay taxes. While the government’s breach created the circumstances that require consideration of future income and tax rates, Sonoma is not absolved of its burden of showing an income-tax disparity and justifying any adjustment.