Jim Clark: Taxation by misrepresentation
Just as Independence Day 1776 foretold a freedom struggle against Great Britain that would not be fully resolved until 1783, Independence Day 2013 is fraught with peril for the independent Incline/Crystal Bay resident who just wants government to leave him or her alone.
The latest development in the Incline Tax Revolt was a setback for locals. Originally, after years of pitched battle in the courts and state boards, the Village League to Save Incline Assets won a resounding victory for three of the tax years for which Washoe County assessment policies were challenged.
The Nevada Supreme Court ordered implementation of a State Board of Equalization order rolling taxes back to 2002 levels, the last year Washoe assessment practices were deemed constitutional. All Incline/Crystal Bay property owners got tax refunds.
Still in question were an additional three tax years. Initially the State Board of Equalization ordered the same remedy as before, then suddenly changed and ordered that for the three years in question Incline/Crystal Bay properties should be reassessed.
Give them an “F” for consistency but the problem goes deeper than that.
It is technically possible to value properties as of years past but the only appeal available to Nevada taxpayers is to protest in writing by January of the year following the assessment. However, if they reassess for earlier years, there is no appeal … so the assessor is free to use any figures he wants.
Not surprisingly the Village League saw some problems with this respecting Constitutional due process and filed in Washoe District Court for an order directing the State Board to rescind its order.
After several months a hearing was scheduled before Judge Flanagan. At least 100 Incline/Crystal Bay residents drove down for the hearing but the judge deferred his ruling.
Just before Independence Day, Judge Flanagan dismissed the motion. The Village League must again appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court. Who said freedom is free?
Meanwhile, just as the state legislature adjourned last month, they passed a bill (AB 46) delegating to the Washoe County Commission the ability to increase property taxes by a nickel per $100 assessed valuation and jump our sales tax by $0.25, all to raise money for maintenance of Washoe County schools.
Beneficiaries of the proposed tax increase, the Reno Chamber and Associated General Contractors, have mounted a campaign to pressure commissioners to act quickly and favorably on the measure.
Finally, the teacher union (Nevada Education Association) has teamed up with the AFL to qualify a measure for the November 2014 statewide ballot that would impose a 2 percent tax on the gross margins of all large and medium Nevada businesses, whether they are profitable or not.
Ostensibly, the revenues raised will go into a slush account earmarked for K-12 education. And just as Independence Day 2013 dawned, the teacher union contributed $1 million to a campaign fund to convince voters to support the proposal.
All of these developments have caused me to reformulate a phrase made famous in 1776 when the colonies were suffering under British hegemony. My adaptation: “Taxation by Misrepresentation.”
Yep. Judge Flanagan just sidestepped a decision thus increasing the time, effort and money the Village League must now spend to attain a fair and consistent result.
And the legislature couldn’t muster the 2/3 vote to enact the school district’s tax increase so they just passed that tar baby to the Washoe Commission. Constitutional? You can bet that will go to the courts.
Finally the teacher union splurges big time to establish a political slush fund. And the money came from …. you guessed it: teacher union dues. Did they get a vote? Nope.
Taxation by misrepresentation! Stand by for a struggle.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates, and has served on the Washoe County and Nevada state GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.