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Eye On Boise

Former Rep. Hart fails to pay up on time, IRS will auction his Athol log home again

Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart's log home in Athol, Idaho, built partly with logs taken from state school endowment land (Kathy Plonka / SR file photo)
Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart's log home in Athol, Idaho, built partly with logs taken from state school endowment land (Kathy Plonka / SR file photo)

Tax-protesting former Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart failed to pay on time in his bid to buy back his Athol home from the IRS at a public auction, so now the IRS is planning to put the log home up for sale again in a new public auction.

David Tucker, IRS spokesman in Seattle, confirmed that Hart didn’t meet an extended deadline to pay up by Nov. 12; he had earlier missed an Oct. 22 deadline, but asked a federal court to give him more time. Under terms of the auction, that means Hart’s $23,260 deposit is forfeited. According to court documents, that money will be “paid to the United States for application to defendant Philip L. Hart’s tax liabilities.”

The IRS seized Hart’s log home to help satisfy his more than $586,000 federal income tax debt. At a public auction in Coeur d’Alene on Oct. 1, Hart was the high bidder for the home on 10 acres, bidding $202,740, well above the minimum bid of $110,000; the 3-bedroom, 3-bath, 2,888 square foot home is assessed for tax purposes at $268,681. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Hart stopped filing both federal and state income tax returns in 1996 while he unsuccessfully pressed a federal lawsuit challenging the federal income tax as unconstitutional; after the case was rejected, he began filing returns again, but authorities said he never fully paid up. He’s also been fighting an order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, interest and penalties; he’s lost numerous appeals in that case, including one to the Idaho Supreme Court.

Hart settled his federal tax case in January and agreed to allow the auction of his home. When the IRS first went after the home, Hart claimed he didn’t own it, though he built it and lived there. Federal authorities, in court filings, called Hart’s attempted transfer of the home to a trust in his daughter’s name a “fraudulent transaction” with a “sham entity.”

It’s the same home for which Hart illegally cut trees from state school endowment land in 1996, maintaining that as a citizen, he had a right to take the logs for free; after repeated, unsuccessful appeals, he never fully satisfied a $22,827 court judgment over the timber theft. An expired statute of limitations prevented the state from pressing collection efforts.

Hart was defeated in his bid for a fifth term in the Idaho House – where his service on the House Tax Committee drew an ethics complaint – in the 2012 GOP primary, but he’s remained active in state GOP politics, and is currently is the Idaho Republican Party’s Legislative District 2 chairman and vice president of the Republican Liberty Caucus.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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