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Air ambulance company disputes Richmond County tax bill

Friday, May 3, 2013 6:27 PM
Last updated Saturday, May 4, 2013 12:39 AM
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An air ambulance company whose plane was seized last week for unpaid taxes is protesting the tax bill and wants a refund.

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.

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I'm Back Again
I'm Back Again 05/04/13 - 02:21 am
Pretty soon Richmond County

Pretty soon Richmond County will be taxing us for a fart in the wind.

Riverman1 05/04/13 - 06:27 am
It may be a little hard to

It may be a little hard to get an air ambulance in the Augusta area in the future. If there is an error in all this, I'd look hard at the Tax Office with its track record.

Clemintime 05/04/13 - 06:37 am
What? Uh.... Wait a Minute

Sounds like a corporate "Three Card Monty" or "Pea in the Shell" game to me. Let them sweat!!

nocnoc 05/04/13 - 07:25 am
I must be missing something

Does the Richmond County-Augusta Charter require X amount of screw ups per year to feed the Downtown Lawyers? Also is there a waiting list for getting in on these lawsuits, or is it a private click?

"“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."

So to collect taxes, it appears our headline grabbing Tax Commissioner "accidentally" chain down the wrong emergency aircraft.

NOTE: I have not had enough coffee yet this morning to be reading or quoting GA law in detail. But after a 2 cup read. It sounds if there had been an emergency the Tax Commissioner could have bee arrested for impeding the operation or flow of an emergency vehicle. As it stands (right or wrong) we may still see a lawsuit for illegally seizing private property.

In summary, it sounds like his attempt to go HIGH MEDIA PROFILE, for easy low hanging fruit and to scare delinquent taxpayers, could have really screwed up and cost someone a family member. Putting women, children, loved ones and injured or wounded police officers at risk, that would have needed a Life Flight via this aircraft in a time critical emergency.

TrukinRanger 05/04/13 - 07:25 am
I don't have much sympathy-

I don't have much sympathy- especially if they're tied to Gold Cross. The bill I received for an ambulance ride from Evans to MCG a few years ago blew my mind. Don't think they would have let it slide if I hadn't paid

Bulldog 05/04/13 - 08:02 am
Our tax office is a laughing stock already.

There is another absolutely ridiculous situation that is close to being aired. After that one hits the fan, it will be time for a recall election!

rmwhitley 05/04/13 - 11:17 am
Richmond county

is the eastern version of Clayton and DeKalb counties. Look them up and see how "efficiently" they are run!

CoastalDawg 05/04/13 - 01:52 pm
Power trip

Does a LOCAL tax commissioner even have the POWER to seize personal property without some kind of notice or higher authority? Even so, an aircraft that is used for medical emergency flights would seemingly be exempt from the tax which apparently the local commissioner can just assess and bill at his own behest. Something smells highly here and it's not the paper mill.

marylou22 05/05/13 - 09:51 am
air tax

city of augusta water works is the most inefficient office I've ever seen what makes you think the tax office would be any different

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