June 2, 2012 in Idaho

Hart asks court to reconsider decision

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE – Tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart is asking the Idaho Supreme Court to reconsider its dismissal of his state income tax appeal, saying the court should have given more consideration to his legislative privilege argument.

Hart appealed an order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest, but filed his appeal months after the 91-day appeal period had expired. He argued that because an Idaho legislative session fell just after the appeal period, his status as a lawmaker should entitle him to more time to file.

The Idaho Supreme Court strongly disagreed, writing in its unanimous decision in April, “In this instance, Hart is just a taxpayer, with no greater privilege than his constituents.”

In his bid for reconsideration, Hart’s Coeur d’Alene attorney, Starr Kelso, wrote, “Requiring a legislator to defend himself from any action during a legislative session immunity period is an exercise of authority that invades the specific constitutional immunity granted to legislators intended to remove all distractions during the legislative session.”

He also objected to the high court’s decision to award attorney fees and costs for the appeal to the state of Idaho. “The award of fees punishes Appellant Hart, a legislator, for asserting a right,” Kelso wrote.

The state Tax Commission’s attorney in the case, Deputy Attorney General Bill von Tagen, submitted an affidavit to the court documenting the state’s costs and fees for the appeal at $10,747.

Hart, R-Athol, was defeated in Idaho’s May 15 GOP primary in his bid for a fifth term in the state House. He also faces a federal lawsuit from the U.S. Justice Department seeking to foreclose on his Athol home for more than $500,000 in back federal income taxes, penalties and interest, and earlier this week he filed for bankruptcy.

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