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Idaho court stands by ruling, rejects Hart’s tax appeal

Phil Hart
Phil Hart

BOISE - The Idaho Supreme Court, without comment, has dismissed tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart’s request to reconsider his state income tax appeal, in which he argued the court should have given more consideration to his legislative privilege argument.

In a one-page ruling, the Supreme Court declared, “After due consideration, it is hereby ordered that Appellant’s petition for rehearing be, and hereby is, denied.”

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.”

The Idaho Constitution makes lawmakers immune from “any civil process” during or 10 days before legislative sessions. But the high court, in is April decision, wrote, “Hart’s untenable argument flows from his misunderstanding of the word ‘process.’ … In this case, Hart was not obligated to do anything but pay his taxes.”

Hart also faces a federal lawsuit seeking to foreclose on his Athol, Idaho home for more than $500,000 in back federal income taxes, penalties and interest, but a stay has been placed on that case because Hart filed for bankruptcy just under two weeks ago. In his bankruptcy filing, Hart listed just three creditors: The Idaho State Tax Commission, the IRS, and a California construction-defects law firm.

In addition to denying Hart’s motion for reconsideration, the Idaho Supreme Court ordered that its April opinion be complied with “forthwith.”

The court said it would issue another order later ordering Hart to pay the state’s attorney fees and costs on appeal, “subject to the automatic stay in Appellant’s bankruptcy proceeding.”

According to court documents, the state’s costs and fees for Hart’s appeal came to $10,747.

Hart, R-Athol, was defeated in Idaho’s GOP primary last month in his bid for a fifth term in the state House; he earlier lost his seat on the House tax committee and gave up the House transportation committee vice-chairmanship to avoid ethics sanctions.

Hart is a tax protester who stopped filing both state and federal income tax returns in the 1990s while he pressed an unsuccessful lawsuit charging that the federal income tax is unconstitutional. He maintains that he’s since paid up, but both state and federal authorities say he hasn’t fully paid what he owes.