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Published: Saturday, 4/19/2003

Cargo firm may receive refunds on some taxes

BAX Global should be able to recover at least $110,000 of the $380,000 in property taxes it mistakenly paid on land at Toledo Express Airport that is part of the Ohio Air National Guard compound, a member of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority staff told the agency's airport committee yesterday.

But the likelihood of recouping the entire amount is not nearly so good, Margaret “Peg” Hutchinson, the agency's human resources and legal administrator, told the panel.

In an April 17 letter to the Ohio Department of Taxation, port authority President James Hartung asked for “assistance in identifying a process or remedy to assist BAX in recovering its erroneous payments in full.”

But airport committee member G. Opie Rollison predicted that the best BAX will be able to do, at least under current law, is recouping its payments back through the 2000 tax year, which is the period normally allowed under the statute authorizing property tax exemptions.

Allowing the firm to recover the six years before that would generate a Pandora's box of similar requests, Mr. Rollison said.

While reviewing the tax status of Toledo-owned properties at the airport, officials discovered in February that starting in 1994, BAX had paid taxes both on its own, leased site and on a National Guard facility of similar value.

Port staff members, confusing the military property with BAX's, mistakenly forwarded county tax bills to the cargo company, and BAX staff members paid the bills. Neither the port authority nor the city of Toledo, which owns the airport complex but leases it to the port authority for $1 a year, had filed paperwork necessary for the National Guard parcel to be exempted.

Lucas County officials said afterward they didn't believe any of the excess taxes could be reimbursed to BAX, because the retroactive exemption only covered taxes not paid in anticipation of receiving tax-exempt status.

But Ms. Hutchinson said “chances are very good” that the most recent three years' payments could offset the firm's future tax obligations.

Such an offset would be at least a modest blow to the Anthony Wayne Local School District, Monclova Township, and other entities to which the taxes ultimately flowed.

The city has since filed an exemption application, and the state taxation department is required to notify Anthony Wayne by July 15. The school district then has until Sept. 1 to submit a statement regarding the exemption request.

It will be mid-September “at the very earliest” before the taxation department rules on the exemption for the National Guard property, Ms. Hutchinson said, and sometimes such rulings take as long as 18 to 24 months.

Randy Hardy, superintendent of Anthony Wayne Schools, said he would refer the matter to the school board once the state notifies him of the exemption request. The school district's likely loss from a $110,000 BAX reimbursement, he said, would be about $65,000.

“We would try to do legally whatever we can to maintain that money,” Mr. Hardy said.

Staff at BAX's Toledo office referred a request for comment about the situation to the firm's California headquarters, where a message left yesterday went unanswered.

The review of BAX's taxes followed a determination that the city had failed to forward four years' worth of tax bills to Grand Aire, Inc., another airport tenant. That firm, which lost two of its planes to crashes on April 8, faces a back-tax bill of about $50,000.



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