Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how the state Tax Commission today refused to extend a big property tax break to operators of railroad tracks, pipelines, cell towers and underground tanks, despite the urging of a roomful of officials from those firms. Had the commission acceded to the request from the companies, all other taxpayers in the counties where their property is located would have had to pay more to make up for the break. “Realize, as we play with those pieces, we start moving who pays what,” said Tax Commissioner Rich Jackson.
Idaho lawmakers this year passed a $20 million partial exemption of business personal property from local property taxes, by exempting the first $100,000 of each taxpayer’s personal property in each Idaho county from the tax. But the Legislature didn’t specify where the line fell dividing personal from real property. So the Tax Commission, working through a committee that met all summer, drafted two rules to draw that line – and the railroads, pipelines and cell towers were classified as real property, ineligible for the new break.
The Legislature authorized state funds to reimburse counties and other local governments for the lost revenue from the new tax break, but only at 2013 levels. If the new rules, which take effect in 2014, had exempted the additional classes of property, that wouldn’t have generated any additional state reimbursement. Instead, it would have forced a tax shift, requiring all other local taxpayers in the county to pay more to make up the difference.