Bruce Ely frequently advises multistate energy and pipeline companies on various state and local tax matters, including nexus, apportionment, special industry rules, and controversies with state taxing authorities, as well as choosing the proper legal entity through which to do business in the southeastern states. He is the co-author of two treatises on the latter subject, and has published articles in numerous publications in both multistate and business law venues over the past 35years.
Early in his practice Bruce developed a specialty advising both exploration companies and landowners on the tax and non-tax issues surrounding the development of coalbed methane deposits and surface coal mining.
His more than 30 years of experience have allowed him to handle projects as diverse as serving on the recruiting teams that successfully induced both Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai to locate their first U.S. manufacturing plants in Alabama, while representing taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service, the Alabama Department of Revenue and local taxing authorities. His practice focuses on three concentric areas: representing taxpayers before federal, state and local administrative and judicial forums; advising companies on choosing the proper form of entity through which to conduct business in the southeast and potential tax incentives; and advising companies and various trade and professional organizations regarding state and local tax legislative matters. He also devotes a substantial amount of time to teaching and writing on SALT-related topics.
Bruce continues to work in the industrial recruiting/tax incentives arena, but more frequently his practice focuses on representing business taxpayers before federal, state and local government agencies and in Alabama courts. He was founding chair of the firm’s State and Local Tax (SALT) Practice team, which represents taxpayers before the Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi Departments of Revenue, as well as local government taxing authorities and the state and federal courts. He has served as counsel to multistate taxpayers in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, but more often before the Alabama appellate courts, circuit courts, and the Alabama DOR’s Administrative Law Division.
As part of his governmental affairs practice, Bruce has co-authored a number of landmark pieces of tax legislation in Alabama, including the Corporate Income Tax Reform Act of 1985, the Alabama Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights/Uniform Revenue Procedures Act of 1992, the Local Tax Simplification and Local Tax Conformity Acts of 1998, the Municipal Business License Reform Act of 2006, the Alabama Taxpayer Fairness Act of 2014, and numerous, more statute-specific tax bills. He was privileged to serve as counsel to several state tax reform, economic development and constitutional reform commissions over the years, and has written extensively on those topics as well as on other multistate tax issues and incentives matters.
Early in his career Bruce began to focus on the taxation of pass-through entities and has chaired or co-chaired several American Bar Association and Alabama State Bar committees and task forces on the subject, as well as having written numerous articles in tax or business law journals and treatises such as “Keatinge & Conaway on Choice of Business Entity” and Professor Richard Pomp's “State & Local Taxation.” He speaks regularly on these topics at the national and state level, and co-authors a series of charts on the state taxation of LLCs and LLPs that have appeared in numerous tax and business entity journals and treatises since 1993.
Bruce is a longstanding Fellow of the American College of Tax Counsel and is included in the International Who’s Who of Corporate Tax Lawyers as its only Alabama member. He is co-chair of the Advisory Board for the New York University Institute on State and Local Taxation, a member of the editorial advisory boards for the Bloomberg BNA/Tax Management Multistate Tax Report, and the Journal of Business Entities (Thomson-Reuters/RIA). He is also a member of the Alabama Law Institute and is vice-chair of the Board of Directors of the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.
Bruce has served for many years as state tax adviser to several business and professional trade associations, is a former chair of the Alabama State Bar Tax Section, and currently chairs its Legislative Review Committee. In December 2013, Bruce was honored with the inaugural NYU/Paul H. Frankel Award for Outstanding Achievement in State and Local Taxation, and he was named one of the “Top 10 Tax Lawyers in the United States” in 2012 by State Tax Notes.
Franklin C. Latcham Award for Distinguished Service in State and Local Tax, 2021 Martindale-Hubbell® AV Preeminent Rated Paul Frankel Excellence in State Taxation Award, Council on State Taxation, 2017 Bloomberg BNA State Tax Author of the Year Award, 2017 First recipient of the Paul H. Frankel Award for Outstanding Achievement in State and Local Taxation, New York University School of Professional Studies, 2013 Listed in State Tax Notes, “Top 10 Tax Lawyers in the United States,” 2012 Listed in The Best Lawyers in America® Litigation and Controversy – Tax, 2011-2024 Tax Law, 1997-2024 “Lawyer of the Year,” Birmingham, Litigation and Controversy – Tax, 2012-2016, 2020, 2024 Listed in Alabama Super Lawyers (now Mid-South Super Lawyers), Tax, 2007-2017 Listed in Who's Who Legal: Corporate Tax, 2009-2018 American College of Tax Counsel, Fellow American Bar Foundation, Fellow Alabama State Bar Distinguished Service Award, 2012 “Top Lawyers in Alabama,” 2008-present Listed in Birmingham Business Journal, "Best of the Bar," 2021 Listed in Birmingham Magazine “Top Attorney,” Tax Law, 2012-2016 “Top 100 People You Should Know,” 2009 Thomas A. Ratcliffe Outstanding Discussion Leader Award, Alabama Society of Certified Public Accountants, 2016-2017 Reno Flying Service, Inc. v. State of Alabama Department of Revenue (Nov. 19, 2021) Sales and use tax case involving the purchase of aircraft by an in-state client. Represented Emergency Medical Response air carrier, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, that purchased an air ambulance out of state, hangered it out of state, and never flew it into Alabama. The Alabama Department of Revenue (ADOR) assessed use tax on the acquisition for alleged in-state use of the plane. Bradley attorneys convinced the ADOR Legal Division to dismiss the final assessment, and the Tax Tribunal agreed. City of Birmingham vs. Elbow River Marketing, LP(2017) Represented an ethanol marketer headquartered in Calgary, Canada, with no office, warehouse, etc. or employees in the City of Birmingham and not doing business in the city, and therefore argued that client was not liable for the assessment of business license tax on its sales to two customers that were either located in or took delivery of products in the city, both via common carrier. Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court ruling. Ameris Bank v. Alabama Department of Revenue, AL Tax Trib. Dkt. No. BIT 16-255 (Feb. 9, 2017) Tax Tribunal voided the ADOR’s multiple assessments on the grounds that the bank’s formation of a captive REIT subsidiary to hold a majority of mortgages was legitimate state tax planning and that the dividends received deduction applied to dividends from the subsidiary. Elbow River Marketing LP v. City of Birmingham, Alabama, Jefferson Co. Cir. Ct. Civ. Action No. 01-CV-2014-0624 (2017). Circuit Court voided the city’s assessment of business license tax, ruling that the natural gas marketing company, which is headquartered in Calgary, Canada, was selling to in-state customers through interstate commerce and had no taxable nexus with the city. Alabama Department of Revenue v. American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company,Case No. 2130933 (Ala. Ct. Civ. App. 2015) Appeals courts upheld trial court ruling in favor of taxpayer’s request for apportionment factor relief under the Alabama business privilege tax on both statutory and Due Process Clause grounds. Montgomery County Commission et al. v. Federal Housing Finance Agency et al.,2015 WL 223699, __ F.3d __ (11th Cir. 2015) 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld district court ruling that our client, the FHFA and its predecessors, FNMA (Fannie Mae) and FHLMC (Freddie Mac), were exempt from Alabama/county recording taxes on the recordation of their mortgages or assignments of mortgages. Staged acquisition of NBC Universal by Comcast Corp. from General Electric Company valued at $16.7 billion (2011, 2013) Advised General Electric with respect to multistate tax ramifications of the acquisition. City of Birmingham v. Veterans Oil Company, Inc., Case No. 1120501 (Ala. S. Ct. 2013) Alabama Supreme Court affirmed Circuit Court ruling for our client that the City of Birmingham cannot impose multiple business license taxes on a taxpayer nor arbitrarily reclassify the taxpayer into another business license classification, while granting refunds of City use taxes when the auditor failed to comply with the Alabama Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights requirement that he advise the taxpayer of a potential refund claim when it has erroneously paid tax to another municipality. State of Alabama v. Motiva Enterprises LLC,CV 2009-900959 (Jefferson Co. Cir. Ct. 2013) Upheld Ala. Dep’t of Revenue Administrative Law Division ruling voiding an assessment of wholesale oil license tax or “WOLF” on a distributor where the Dep't of Revenue attempted to impose new record-keeping requirements retroactively and that would have been practically impossible for the taxpayer to comply with and possibly violated federal antitrust laws. HealthSouth Corporation, et al. v. State Dep’t of Revenue, Case No. 2100330 (Ala. Ct. Civ. App. 2012) (cert. den. Nov. 21, 2012) Affirmed rulings by the ADOR's Administrative Law Division and Circuit Court that granted the taxpayers corporate income tax refunds and related net operating loss adjustments attributable to IRS audit changes, resulting from fraudulently overstated earnings. City of Birmingham, et al. v. Orbitz, LLC, et al, Case No. 1100874 (Ala. S. Ct. 2012) Unanimous decision affirming the trial court's ruling that on-line travel companies are not subject to Alabama's hotel lodgings tax on their reservation fees. Jim Walter Resources, Inc. v. Tuscaloosa County,Case No. 1110067 (Ala. S. Ct. 2012) Landmark decision by the Alabama Supreme Court regarding whether a mortgage to secure the guaranty of an affiliate’s debt to a third party lender is a fixed indebtedness subject to Alabama mortgage recording tax. The Court agreed with our client, the taxpayer, ruling that no taxable indebtedness existed until the guaranty was called by the lender. Henson v. HealthSouth Corporation, Case No. CV 2003-1604 (Jefferson Co. Cir. Ct. 2009) In the case of Henson v. HealthSouth, a claim was made by an individual taxpayer in the county to void a tax exemption awarded to HealthSouth Corporation in connection with the construction of a new "digital hospital." On remand from the Alabama Supreme Court and after substantial discovery, the case was tried in July 2009 and the Court rendered a judgment in favor of HealthSouth upholding the validity of the tax exemption. The plaintiffs did not appeal. Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas, Inc. v. State Dep’t of Revenue, Case No. CV-2008-900755 (Montgomery Co. Cir. Ct. 2009) Granting taxpayer’s motion for summary judgment affirming ruling by Administrative Law Division ruling that the taxpayer’s gain from the sale of its affiliate stock was properly classified as non-business income (and non-unitary) income. AT&T Corporation v. Surtees, 8 So. 3d 950 (Ala. Ct. Civ. App. 2008) Represented AT&T in an appeal of an Alabama business privilege and corporate shares tax assessment in which a part of both statutory schemes was held unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause by the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals and by the circuit court on remand.