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Augusta officials seize plane in effort to collect tax debt

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 7:25 PM
Last updated Thursday, May 2, 2013 12:50 AM
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Richmond County Tax Commis­sioner Steven Kendrick went to the airport last week to catch a plane – or two.

Kendrick wasn’t looking for a flight. He was trying to prevent one.

He and other officials descended on an airport hangar Thursday evening with chains and writs of execution for the seizure of two aircraft operated by Med-Trans, the Texas-based air ambulance company that acquired AirMed last year.

They found one plane, chained the front landing gear and posted a notice requiring immediate payment for its outstanding personal property tax debt – about $97,000, Kendrick said.

The seizure of assets was part a renewed effort by tax officials to collect more than $1.2 million in personal property taxes owed by Augusta businesses.

Kendrick said his office had been working to get the company’s tax debt satisfied for months without much luck. He said Med-Trans contended it was exempt from county taxes, as a regulated air carrier.

According to Georgia law, however, Med-Trans does not qualify under the exemption with the Department of Revenue, which taxes airlines as public utilities, Kendrick said.

Letters and phone calls hadn’t been successful in collecting the debt. Seizing the plane, however, got a different reaction.

“We were wired the money the next day,” he said.

Phone calls seeking comment from Med-Trans were not returned Wednesday.

The seizure of the Med-Trans plane, while effective, isn’t how tax officials want to handle these types of debts, said Chief Deputy Tax Commissioner Chris Johnson.

“We don’t want to interrupt businesses,” Johnson said. “They’ve got employees, they’ve got suppliers. There are a lot of ripple effects when you do that.”

Johnson said the tax commissioner’s office tries to work with businesses that fall behind on taxes to settle debts before they grow larger from penalties and interest.

“We don’t want it to get to the point where the debt is unpayable,” he said.

As of Wednesday, there were about 636 delinquent personal property tax accounts in Richmond County. Of that number, about 240 were more than a year past due, Johnson said. Of those, about 17 companies owed more than $10,000 in taxes and penalties, he said.

Businesses are required to file taxes on personal property, which includes inventory, machinery and other equipment used in operations. Unlike real estate taxes, however, personal property is mobile, which can make it difficult to assess and collect.

“A house don’t move,” Johnson said.

The tax commissioner can place liens on business assets as a way to force the payment of debt, but if the assets disappear, a lien has little real power.

Johnson said they suspect some businesses have moved personal property to avoid paying taxes, but it is difficult to prove.

Even if tax officials are successful in seizing such assets, that can create another set of problems. A warehouse full of business inventory, whether it is toilet paper or gold watches, has to be stored and protected until the debt is settled or the property is liquidated.

That’s another reason tax officials prefer settling debts over seizing property.

Of the overdue accounts, about $258,000 is considered “insolvent,” meaning it will never be collected, Johnson said.

“These businesses are probably not doing business anymore,” he said.

Johnson said they don’t want that number to grow. He said their office is going to great lengths to contact every business with an overdue bill and work with them to settle their debts.

“If it is a big bill now, it’s not going to stop accruing interest,” he said. “We don’t want it to get any bigger.”

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nocnoc 05/01/13 - 08:46 pm
So next time someone needs a Med-Taxi

what happens?

Will they still be here in Augusta or re-hanger in Waynesboro, Thomson, North Augusta, or Aiken. Thus adding a wait time.

Under the FRED RUSSELL proposed Private Tax collector service. How much would ARC have gotten in the end? 40% or less, or 40% or more?

Riverman1 05/02/13 - 04:07 am
Let's hope Kendrick doesn't

Let's hope Kendrick doesn't lose the $97,000.

jmo 05/02/13 - 05:21 am

If he does, just wait long enough and everyone will forget about it (and keep their job).

Dixieman 05/02/13 - 10:22 am

"Fly there, fly home, get your front wheel chained and be grounded by the taxman."

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 05/02/13 - 10:10 am

From the story:

The seizure of assets was part a renewed effort by tax officials to collect more than $1.2 million in personal property taxes owed by Augusta businesses.

Many of the liberal posters on this forum fumed or made fun of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that corporations are persons. But not Steven Kendrick. He took advantage of the ruling to make those corporations pay personal property taxes.

rmwhitley 05/02/13 - 11:23 am

gonna get upset if they start going after his union absconders, welfare cheats, naacp, aclu, sclc, democratic nat'l conv., charlie rangel, jesse jackson sr. jr. and wives, elizabeth warren, patty murray, claire mccaskill, lisa murkowski, planned parenthood, "war hero" (d. sen. Conn.) richard blumenthal, al "snl" franken, harry "the lip" reid, jealous,kerry and heinz, pelosi and starkist, costco, georgy schwarz soros, black panthers, bill ayers, eric holder, ruth ginsburg, sotomayor, quinn, blageovich, kilpatrick, frank, gilliland, sanders, angus king, susan collins, any kennedy, any clinton, any illegal alien, any illegally gun toting felon ( especially in chicago ), et al. Don't mess with them 'cause that's the lefty voting base.

my.voice 05/02/13 - 12:09 pm
LOL @ Dixieman..........

LOL @ Dixieman..........

GiantsAllDay 05/02/13 - 06:11 pm
Dixieman: nice one!

Dixieman: nice one!

JRC2024 08/01/15 - 01:53 pm
I hope he goes after the past

I hope he goes after the past dues on property taxes as well. We have too many that do not pay and then have their hand out. I once had a conversation in Harrisburg that was paying less than $200 per year and was complaining that that was too much. Gee.

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