Three panelists at the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho conference today are addressing the state’s new partial personal property tax exemption for business property, which exempts up to $100,000 in value per taxpayer, per county. “A lot of people thought, $100,000 per taxpayer per county, how simple could that be?” said Steve Fiscus, property tax division manager for the Idaho State Tax Commission. But, he said, “It’s not as simple as it could be.”
However, it’s pretty simple for 90 percent of Idaho businesses that previously had to pay personal property taxes – they no longer have to pay at all, because their value was below the $100,000 mark. “About 90 percent of the accounts in the state of Idaho were eliminated, which is pretty close to the estimate we had when we initially did the research on this project,” Fiscus said. That means those businesses no longer have to file annual reports and pay taxes on their desks, chairs and other equipment.
Where it gets complicated: The Tax Commission has adopted new rules drawing the line between real and personal property, and those who landed on the real side – meaning they won’t qualify for the break – are plenty upset. They include operators of cell phone towers, railroad tracks, pipelines, underground storage tanks and more.
Rick Smith, an attorney with Hawley Troxell who represents Northwest Pipeline, Century Link, and AT&T, said, “I think it would be necessary as a matter of tax policy, in order to make this personal property exemption truly reasonable, to expand it to all property.”
When the panelists were asked if they’d change the new exemption or its rules – if they were “king for a day” – Fiscus said, “If I was king for a day, I’d say give it a rest for at least a year, so that we can get caught up and maybe do a little better job administering it.”