Med-Trans, the Texas-based company that acquired Augusta’s AirMed air ambulance service in October, paid $98,500 in property taxes Friday to the Richmond County Tax Commissioner’s Office.
The payment was sent a day after tax officials seized a Beechcraft B200 plane at Augusta Regional Airport to secure the unpaid debt.
“That was the first time Med-Trans knew about the tax issue and when we were given a copy of the Tax Notice,” according to Reid Vogel, a spokesman for Med-Trans, who responded by e-mail.
Vogel said the taxes are owed by AirMed, and the plane that was seized, identified by tail number N771MG, belongs to Med-Trans “sister company,” EagleMed LLC.
“Med-Trans and EagleMed told the Richmond County Tax Commissioner’s office that N771MG was not owned by AirMed Inc. and that it is an emergency response aircraft serving the general public, but it did not matter to them,” Vogel wrote.
Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick said it was his position that Med-Trans acquired the company and its equipment, and it is now responsible for the tax debt.
The dispute over the tax bill dates to early 2012, when AirMed was sent an assessment notice by the Richmond County Tax Assessors Office for four aircraft operated by the company and hangared in Augusta.
Chief Assessor Alveno Ross said AirMed failed to file a return for business personal property tax on its equipment, so one was created for the company by his office. Ross said that even after the assessment notice was sent out, AirMed did not file an appeal.
On March 22, 2012, AirMed President Dan Gates sent a letter arguing that under Georgia law, AirMed was a commercial airline and thus exempt from local property taxes.
Ross said the exemption cited by Gates doesn’t apply; if it did, AirMed would be assessed as a public utility and subject to state taxes. He said the company has not offered any documentation to indicate that was the case.
Gates said the situation was a first for him.
“We’ve never been taxed in 12 or 13 years of business,” he said.
Gates said that even if AirMed owed some taxes last year, he doesn’t agree with the amount. He said of the four aircraft – two helicopters and two planes – AirMed actually owned only one, a 1979 Beechcraft F90.
Gates said the two helicopters were leased from another company, BMK LP, and the Beechcraft B200 was owned by another of his companies, Coastal Air Inc.
Since the sale to Med-Trans, the helicopters have returned to BMK and the two planes were sold to EagleMed, a subsidiary of Air Medical Group Holdings, which also owns Med-Trans,
EagleMed sold the Beechcraft F90 in October to a North Carolina company, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.
Ross said issues of ownership and leases were not raised at the time of the assessment notice.
“The account was reviewed on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 by an accounting official associated with GoldCross, an affiliated company of AirMed,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Since that time, this office has not received any communications contrary to the review.”
Vogel said Med-Trans and EagleMed are not satisfied with the current situation.
“We are preparing an appeal to get our money back,” he said.