Kansas Supreme Court rules for former Pizza Hut owner

Kansas Supreme Court

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Kansas Supreme Court has ordered the state to pay more than $63 million to settle a 16-year tax dispute with former Pizza Hut franchise owner Gene Bicknell.

The court reversed a Kansas Court of Appeals decision about a long-running tax fight with Bicknell and the Kansas Department of Revenue. The Supreme Court heard the case back on Dec. 14, 2021.

Bicknell, who lived in Crawford County, once owned the most Pizza Hut franchises (NPC International) in the nation, with 800 franchises and over 22,000 employees.

State officials argued that Bicknell, a longtime resident of Pittsburg, was a Kansas resident when he sold the company, which would have meant millions in sales tax revenue for the state. 

In a unanimous opinion written by Kansas Supreme Court Justice K.J. Wall, the court determined that Bicknell proved he changed his residency from Kansas to Florida. The district court properly applied Kansas law in reaching its judgment.

The Supreme Court also rejected KDOR’s argument that taxpayers can only overcome the regulatory presumption that they share a domicile with their spouse by presenting evidence they live apart from their spouse. Instead, the court held the regulation’s plain language enables taxpayers to overcome the presumption by presenting any “affirmative evidence to the contrary,” and affirmed the district court’s finding that Bicknell overcame the presumption he shared his spouse’s Kansas domicile. 

In 2020, Bicknell said Kansas owed him $63 million — his original tax bill plus interest.