Citizen Jones Fights the Powers

I did call the auditor back and ask her whether she knew if the statute she quoted was indeed in effect in 1999. “I don’t know,” she says, “I assume so.”

Oh. Do you. Well, let me just roll over and pay, then. Not.

As I said, however, I was not exactly sure how to go about proving to myself and the Arizona Department of Revenue that the 1999 law did not exclude motorcycles. Where do you find old copies of the law?

My friend Rich suggested the law library at the University of Arizona. Excellent idea, my friend. It’s open late, so one night after the kids were in bed I drove down there to see what I could see.

A little introduction: I’m a software engineer by trade, and so I am used to dealing with code all the time—computer code. There are some similarities between computer code and human law code. One very important tool for a software engineer is what is called a revision control system. This means that every time a programmer working on a body of code makes a change to it, the time, date, and programmer’s name is recorded in an associated log, along with any comment they might make about it. This is a very valuable tool, and I wished that there was something just like this for ARS 43-1086. I wondered what I would find at the library.

What I found, at first, were two editions of the Arizona Revised Statutes: one set published in 2002, which of course contained the motorcycle exclusion, and one set published in 1998. The 1998 version contained the old alternative-fuel deduction: less generous, and also not excluding motorcycles. As you may remember, this was the law that was repealed in 1999 and replaced with ARS 43-1086. So now I wondered what to do. The law had changed, several times, between 1998 and 2002. Where would I find the journal of revisions?

As it turns, out, such a journal does exist, and it is called the Session Laws. These describe, in intimate detail, every bill brought to the floor, its text, and whether the govenor vetoed it or not, for every session of the legislature. Figuring out how to read these tomes (they are quite massive) took me the rest of the night. But I did discover, that in its initial introduction in 1999, ARS 43-1086 did not exclude motorcycles.

Aha! My chances suddenly improved! I had been worried that I would find that the original 1999 law did indeed exclude motorcycles, and that I somehow missed the provision when researching it for my 1999 return. Now I had to find when the exclusion was added. If it was added before the end of 1999, I would still be out of luck, but if after, my 1999 tax return would be correct as filed.

I ran out of time before the end of that night at the library, but my friend Matt helped me later discover the exact Senate Bill and associated Chapter of the 2000 Session Laws (chapter 405) that added the exclusion, general effective date July 18, 2000, at the Arizona Department of Revenue website.

Now I had my case. I responded to my audit letter with a protest, and am now awaiting an answer from the Arizona Department of Revenue.

Read on to see the final result