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12YO’s Investigation Angers Senator

In the aftermath of recent news about the Idaho State Tax Commission investigating a 12-year-old boy who operated a fruit stand over the summer, the chairman of the state Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee is considering reforms to the state’s tax policies. “It is disturbing,” Sen, Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, said of the child investigation news. In an interview with IdahoReporter.com, Siddoway noted that after he read the news: “I just shook my head and thought ‘what are we doing here? Hasn’t the tax commission got better things to do? Is really where we want to put our resources?’” Siddoway also noted that “Idaho currently has a long, long list of tax laws pertaining to children”/Austin Hill, Idaho Reporter. More here.

Question: Will the Idaho State Tax Commission regret this investigation?

IFF: Tax Commission Picks On Kids

All of this brings me to the story of Tayson Weeks, a 12-year-old Pocatello boy who has been targeted by state tax commission employees and told to remit the sales tax the government believes he owes for the sale of raspberries at his summertime roadside fruit stand. This is the same tax commission which, in 2010, attempted to shut down a Lewiston pumpkin stand operated by kids ages 4 and 6. Defenders of the tax commission will pound their chests and say nonsensical and thoughtless things like, “the law is the law and must be enforced at all costs.” Well, the law is stupid and its application is even dumber. There are thousands of businesses operating in Idaho and finite government bureaucrats to monitor them all. The state loses money every time it targets a child/Wayne Hoffman, Idaho Freedom Foundation. More here.

Question: Should the Tax Commission leave Tayson and other juvenile entrepreneurs alone?

Idaho Responds To Hart’s Claims

Item: State responds to Phil Hart's claims/Jeff Selle, Coeur d'Alene Press

More Info: Hart's objection prompted the tax commission to file a response two weeks ago in the United States Bankruptcy Court saying the matter of how much Hart owes the state has been litigated, and that he is now seeking a venue to overturn an Idaho Supreme Court ruling he lost in April of 2012. “The tax commission believes that, by objecting to its claim, (Hart) is merely shopping for another forum to litigate the debt he owes to the state of Idaho, a debt established, fully litigated, and finally assessed well before the filing of his bankruptcy,” the response said.

Question: I wonder how much money the state and feds have spent trying to bell this cat?

IFF: Here Come Idaho Revenuers

In the 1990s, it wasn't uncommon for lawmakers to laud the tax collectors and auditors of the Idaho State Tax Commission. It is better to deal with the State Tax Commission, legislators would say, than the federal government and its Internal Revenue Service. That has changed, even reversed. Now, lawmakers openly talk about how the state’s tax commission is worse to deal with than the IRS, that the tax commission has become increasingly aggressive in its scrutiny of Idaho taxpayers. It is a story that I hear over and over again as I travel the state, taxpayers tell me of being targeted by the tax commission, undergoing the agency's relentless nitpicking and reinterpretation of Idaho law. Sometimes it costs as much to fight an audit as the bill being proposed by the tax commission, so some choose just to pay up/Wayne Hoffman, Idaho Freedom Foundation. More here.

Question: Have you had good/bad experiences with Idaho Tax Commission collectors/auditors?

Hart Files For Bankrupty Yet Again

State lawmaker and tax protester Rep. Phil Hart has filed for bankruptcy — again — prompting a federal tax foreclosure case against him to be put on hold. Hart filed for bankruptcy in Idaho's U.S. District Court on Wednesday, almost two months after he voluntarily dropped his previous bankruptcy case. Hart, a Republican from Athol who lost his bid for a fifth term in the Idaho House in the May primary election, stopped filing federal income tax returns in 1996 while he unsuccessfully pursued a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal income tax. He lost that lawsuit, and the Internal Revenue Service is seeking to collect more than half a million dollars in back taxes, penalties and interest, partly by foreclosing on his log home/AP via Eye on Boise. More here.

Question: I'm starting to believe that our Artful Tax Dodger is trying to outlast the IRS and Idaho Tax Commission. What do you think?

Court Orders Hart To Pay Legal Fees

Tax protesting lawmaker Phil Hart has been ordered to pay the state more than $10,000 in legal fees and costs stemming from his tussle with the Idaho State Tax Commission. The decision was handed down by the Idaho Supreme Court Tuesday. The Republican Representative from Athol was ordered to pay $9,960 in attorney fees and another $168 in costs to cover the commission's tab in the case. In June, the high court dismissed Hart's last-ditch request to consider his state income tax appeal/Associated Press. More here.

Thoughts?

Feds: Hart Plan ‘Not Feasible’

Federal prosecutors are calling for Idaho Rep. Phil Hart’s proposed bankruptcy plan to be dismissed, saying it’s improper, it wouldn’t appropriately satisfy his half-million-dollar federal income tax debt, and it relies on an income source that will disappear at the end of this year: His legislative salary. Hart, a tax protester and fourth-term state lawmaker, was defeated in the May GOP primary, so his legislative salary will end in December. “Hart’s plan is not feasible,” wrote U.S. Department of Justice attorney Adam Strait in court documents. Hart had proposed paying $200 a month for five years - a total of $12,000 - to get his entire debt of more than $600,000 discharged. Most of that debt is to the IRS; it also includes more than $50,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest, and $22,000 in credit card debt/Betsy Russell, SR. More here.

Question: Do you think the feds will ever get Hart to pay up?

Rep. Hart Rebuffs Finance Questions

Item: Hart rebuffs finance questions: Trustee lawyer at lawmaker’s bankruptcy hearing says refusal to answer unusual/Scott Maben, SR

More Info: Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart refused to answer many questions about his finances in a meeting Friday with creditors in his bankruptcy case. An attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice and another representing the Idaho State Tax Commission grilled Hart about his business interests, income, assets and debts during a meeting conducted by the trustee in Hart’s Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing. Hart, a longtime tax protester who owes the IRS more than $550,000 and the state more than $50,000, said he thought many of the questions – including ones about corporations he helped set up and about the Athol house he lives in – were inappropriate or irrelevant to his bankruptcy filing. He repeatedly responded, “I decline to answer.” Refusing to answer such questions is highly unusual in such a meeting, said Ford Elsaesser, a Sandpoint lawyer representing the trustee in the case. (SR file photo of Phil Hart)

Question: What do you think was Hart's strategy re: not answering questions?

Hart Asks High Court To Reconsider

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”/Betsy Z. Russell, SR. More here.

Thoughts?

Rep. Hart Files For Bankruptcy

Tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart, who lost his bid for a fifth term in the GOP primary two weeks ago, has filed for bankruptcy. In Hart’s petition for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, he lists just three creditors: The IRS, the Idaho State Tax Commission, and Anderson & Krieger, a construction defect law firm in Sacramento, Calif. Hart also is facing a foreclosure 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 a state order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest. Michael McFarland, Hart’s Coeur d’Alene attorney in the bankruptcy proceeding, said, “I’m really not in a position to discuss details”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here. And: bankruptcy document here.

Thoughts?

Idaho Court Rejects Hart Tax Appeal

A unanimous Idaho Supreme Court has rejected state Rep. Phil Hart's appeal of an order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest on grounds of legislative privilege; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com. In a seven-page opinion authored by Justice Jim Jones, the unanimous court held that the Idaho Constitution's legislative privilege clause from arrest or “civil process” during legislative sessions didn't protect Hart, or permit him to file his state tax appeal months later than anyone else would have been allowed to. “Hart's untenable argument flows from his misunderstanding of the word 'process,'” Jones wrote/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Thoughts?

Judge Clears Way For Hart Nov. 5 Trial

A U.S. District Court Judge has cleared the way for federal prosecutors to proceed with their case against Athol Republican Rep. Phil Hart for failing to pay income taxes. Justice Edward Lodge handed down three orders today, all in favor the U.S. Government and against Hart. The north Idaho lawmaker had argued that feds should have been barred for serving him with a notice of deficiency while the Idaho Legislature was in session. Additionally, Hart had sought to have tax assessments reduced and foreclosure stalled on a parcel of his property in Kootenai County. Lodge ordered that there be no more delays in the matter and presented Hart with a firm schedule/George Prentice, Boise Weekly. More here.

Question: Hart's trial date is the day before November's general election. How does that play in his chances at re-election?

Supreme Court Hears Hart’s Appeal

Phil Hart’s anti-tax battle hit the big time Monday, at least in Idaho. The visiting Idaho Supreme Court considered oral arguments in Hart’s continuing fight against income taxes and the justices appeared to have little patience for the Athol lawmaker’s claims that the state constitution shields him from tax collectors. At issue is $53,000 in unpaid state taxes, penalties and interest that the Idaho State Tax Commission ruled Hart owes. In a separate action, Hart faces a federal trial next year where the government is seeking to foreclose on his log home near Athol to recoup about $550,000 for several years of unpaid federal taxes and the corresponding penalties. Hart’s legal defense in both courts centers on a provision of Idaho’s state constitution that bars senators or state representatives from any civil process 10 days before and during the legislative session/Thomas Clouse, SR. More here. And: Coeur d'Alene Press coverage here.

Thoughts?

Supreme Court To Hear Hart Appeal

Tax-protesting Idaho State Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, takes his appeal of his state income taxes to the Idaho Supreme Court today; the arguments start at 11:10 a.m. Pacific time in the old courthouse in Coeur d'Alene, second floor, Judge Luster's courtroom. S-R reporter Tom Clouse is there and we'll have a full report/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise.

Thoughts

Geddes Resigns From Tax Commission

Idaho State Tax Commission Chairman Bob Geddes resigned his state post this week and will return to Monsanto, his former employer. Geddes is the former Senate president pro tem who was chosen by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter in January 2011 to help restore the State Tax Commission's reputation. That's after its former chairman, Royce Chigbrow, resigned amid complaints he was helping family and friends and inappropriately handling taxpayer money. Geddes didn't immediately return a phone call. Otter's office said Thursday the 56-year-old Geddes submitted his resignation letter Feb. 7, with his last day of work on Feb. 21/Betsy Russell, Eye on Boise. More here.

Question: On Twitter, Dustin Hurst/Idaho Reporter offers a guess that House Speaker Lawerence Denney would be a solid choice to replace Geddes on Idaho Tax Commission. What do you think?

Hart Opposes Tardy Tax Notice Bill

Idaho could save $200,000 a year by no longer using certified mail to send two types of deficiency notices to delinquent taxpayers, and instead using first-class mail. The reason: 35 percent of certified mail is returned, simply because folks don't bother to pick it up. Today, Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, urged the House to support HB 362, legislation from the state Tax Commission to try first-class mail instead for a year, to see how it works; the Tax Commission would report back to lawmakers after a year on the results/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

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Hart Gets Delay To Hire Attorney

Tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart has asked for and received a 30-day delay in the deadline to file his legal response to federal authorities' move to foreclose on his Athol, Idaho home for years of unpaid federal income taxes, interest and penalties. Hart, acting as his own attorney, asked for a delay until Jan. 5, which is four days before the start of this year's legislative session, to allow him time to bring on and qualify an out-of-state attorney and get him up to speed to file the response. “Defendant Hart states that the purpose of the continuance is not for delay, but it is needed for him to obtain counsel and allow said counsel to be admitted … and review the case in preparation for filing an Answer,” Hart wrote in his motion to the federal court/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

DFO: Pardon my cynicism, in dealing with our Artful Tax Dodger who's the darling of the local Constitutional RINO movement, but I predict that Hart will hide behind his legislative immunity in January and continue to elude the tax posse pursuing him.

Question: What do you think?

Trillhaase: Rep. Hart Delays, Obstructs

Idaho's courts are obligated to tolerate Rep. Phil Hart's insistence that it respect every single one of his due process rights before he pays his taxes. But the Athol Republican's constituents are free to judge Hart's actions now. As his latest legal maneuver makes clear, Hart is — to borrow liberally from Idaho State Tax Commission lawyers - clearly engaged in a “pattern of delay and obstruction.” Hart's claim to fame is that he writes laws for the rest of us to obey while taking a decidedly cavalier approach to following those laws himself/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

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Did Geddes Violate Expense Rules?

When new state Tax Commission Chairman Bob Geddes was appointed, he was in Boise serving as a ninth-term state senator; two years earlier, he'd sold his house in Soda Springs and bought a home in Meridian, but he was still renting a home in Soda Springs. Under state policies, Geddes was entitled to reimbursement for his moving expenses for the job, including one-way transport of two vehicles. But since he was in Boise, he had to go back to Soda Springs in eastern Idaho each time he packed up and moved household items from there to Boise; as a result, the $1,861.66 in moving expenses he submitted violated the state's rules for two reasons/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Mountain? Or mole hill?

Otter Picks Geddes For Tax Panel

“He has my total confidence and my appreciation,” Gov. Butch Otter said of Sen. Bob Geddes, his choice to be the next chairman of the state Tax Commission. “Bob has great respect in the Legislature, I think he has great respect all over Idaho. I have found that wherever I go, and a high level of confidence that not only comes from both sides of the rotunda but both sides of the aisle”/Betsy Russell, Eye on Boise. More here.

Question: What does Geddes have to do to restore your confidence in the Idaho Tax Commission?

Embattled Tax Commissioner Quits

Idaho State Tax Commission Chairman Royce Chigbrow has resigned. In a hand-delivered resignation letter sent to Gov. Butch Otter, Chigbrow wrote, “Our system of taxation is not perfect, but I tried to do my best on behalf of every Idahoan during my tenure, while treating taxpayers with the respect, fairness and dignity they deserve. … Despite all of this I know there needs to be a change”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Hart Pays 2009 Income Tax Late

Item: Hart averts another tax fight: Lawmaker months late filing 2009 return/Betsy Z. Russell, SR

More Info: Tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart narrowly avoided a court order over the holidays when he belatedly filed his 2009 state income tax return three days before Christmas. The Idaho State Tax Commission went to court in December for an order against Hart, saying he’d ignored repeated notices that his tax return was due. Returns are due by April 15.

Question: Any of you fail to pay your state income tax on time last year?

Idaho Tax Commission chair allegedly used position to help friend

The Associated Press reports that Idaho Tax Commission Chairman Royce Chigbrow allegedly tried to use his position to help a friend embroiled in a dispute with a former employer.

The allegations, revealed in emails and documents that the AP obtained under the Idaho Public Records Law, include that Chigbrow sought to provide his friend, Skip Hofferber, with confidential information about the firm's tax problems after the man had been fired from the company; ordered a forced tax collection against the firm; and then improperly handled two company cashier's checks totaling more than $30,000 that Hofferber gave Chigbrow at an Arid Club lunch - and that the firm later reported stolen. Read more.

Isn't it time for someone to express some shock and outrage?

Tax Commish Chair Aided Son’s Firm

The Associated Press reports today that public records it obtained under the Idaho Public Records Act show Idaho State Tax Commission Chairman Royce Chigbrow intervened on behalf of clients of his son’s accounting firm, over the objections of Tax Commission employees, bringing the clients significant breaks on their taxes. “The heavily redacted documents were among those collected by the Idaho attorney general’s office while representing the Tax Commission in a pending lawsuit that alleges commissioners have given politically connected taxpayers secret sweetheart deals for years,” reports AP reporter John Miller/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Are you surprised at this point that sweetheart deals seem to be regular fare at the Idaho Tax Commission?

Judge: Hart Case ‘Truly Remarkable’

In his quixotic battle to not pay state and federal income taxes, a North Idaho state legislator was clobbered by a windmill Wednesday. Rep. Phil Hart (R-Athol) lost his bid to forestall the Idaho Tax Commission from coming after $53,523 in state income tax he owes. One day after hearing arguments, 1st District Court Judge John Mitchell tossed Hart’s case out on its ear. “Hart’s [motion] lacks any cogent legal argument as to why this Court has jurisdiction,”  Mitchell writes in a tart, 13-page ruling. (pdf) Indeed, Mitchell goes on to say, “Instead of providing legal argument, Hart makes the following circular, wholly unsupported claim that this Court simply assume it has jurisdiction … (emphasis Mitchell’s)” The judge was not amused, and called Hart’s claims “truly remarkable.” But he didn’t mean it in a good way/Kevin Taylor, Inlander. More here.

Question: As the Riddler in the Batman movie would say, “Riddle me this …” How can Phil Hart be a member of the House Judiciary Committee and fail to file a tax appeal in a timely manner?

Hart Appeal Lacks ‘Cogent Argument’

Judge John Mitchell has granted a motion by the Idaho Tax Commission to dismiss an appeal by state Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, re: back taxes owed because Hart didn’t file the motion in a timely matter. Hart owes more than $53,523 in income tax to the Idaho Tax Commission. Hart was in court in Coeur d’Alene Tuesday trying to appeal the state Board of Tax Appeals’ decision to reject his state income tax appeal. The state filed a motion to dismiss Hart’s appeal, arguing that the court has no jurisdiction to take an appeal because Hart missed the filing deadline, by many months, to file an administrative appeal. You can read the Mitchell’s decision here.

My favorite quote from ruling: “Appellant Hart’s Reply to Defendants’ 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss” lacks any cogent legal argument as to why this Court has jurisdiction. Instead of providing legal argument, Hart makes the following circular, wholly unsupported claim that this Court simply assume it has jurisdiction: (see Page 8 in link above for rest).

Question: Izzit just me, or did Judge Mitchell take Hart & his attorney, Starr Kelso, to the wood shed in his ruling?

TFTN: Investigate Tax Commission

It’s not just a couple of disgruntled Democrats anymore who want to know what the Idaho Tax Commission is up to. The 13,000-member Idaho Education Association and two other teachers’ groups last week joined state Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, and her attorney, Robert Huntley, in a lawsuit over secret tax deals at the commission. “We take the allegations very seriously,” John Rumel, general counsel for the Idaho Education Association, told the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash. “The representative’s allegations indicate that because of some sweetheart deals and corrupt practices, a substantial amount of funds that should be going into the coffers of the state are not getting there.” Dubious compromise settlements are cutting into tax revenue for education, Rumel argues, in a year when state funding for schools is down 7.5 percent/Twin Falls Times-News Editorial Board. More here.

Question: Should the Idaho Tax Commission be investigated for possible sweetheart deals with industry that may be costing the state millions in tax revenue?

Hart To Fight $53,523 In Idaho Taxes

Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart is going to court over his back state income taxes, filing an appeal in 1st District Court in Kootenai County charging that Idaho’s state income tax is unconstitutional. Today, the state of Idaho filed a motion to dismiss the appeal; the court set a Dec. 7 hearing on the motion. Hart’s seven-page appeal raises an array of issues, including whether Idaho’s state income tax “as a graduated tax, fails the uniformity requirement” of Idaho’s state Constitution; and whether the state Board of Tax Appeals, in Hart’s case, “upheld the sanctity” of Idaho’s constitutional privilege protecting state legislators from civil action during legislative sessions/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Pumpkingate Attention Boosts Sales

News of the tax commission’s actions tripled business at the Normal Hill stand, Kami Charais said. The Charais’ took in about $603 from sales of the Halloween staple, compared with the $200 family members were seeking to pay for Jacob and Sami-Lou’s wrestling and dance programs. The family also got a temporary seller’s permit from Nez Perce County and another permit from the state. When all is said and done, the couple plans on turning about $36 over to the tax commission. “It was never my intention to tax-evade, and I guess ignorance of the law is no excuse to evade the law,” Kami Charais said/Elaine Thompson, Lewiston Tribune. More here. (Lewiston Tribune/AP photo: Kyle Mills)

Question: Is this one of those times when a bureaucrat is pennywise & pound foolish — in other words, they’re following the letter of the law but eschewing common sense?

Phil Hart Tells His Side Of The Story

On his Twitter account moments ago, Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, provided a link to 5 YouTube videos that “tells his side of the story and clarifies misleading articles in the press.” The video below is the first of that series. You can see the rest of the series here.

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