Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Who should pay for tax battles?

State Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, is surely disappointed to find out that he's just an ordinary person when it comes to taxes.

The Idaho Supreme Court last week rejected his contention that his position as a legislator gave him the right to miss a deadline to file an appeal of decisions by the State Tax Commission declaring that he was obligated to pay income taxes in the years 1996 through 1998 and to pay income tax deficiencies for the years 1999 through 2004.

The commission had determined that Hart owed $53,523 in unpaid taxes, penalties and interest. Hart could have appealed to the Idaho Board of Tax Appeals within 91 days, but he didn't. And, he wasn't a little late—he was three months late.

Now, Hart owes not only back taxes, but yet to be determined legal fees. The high court called his appeal groundless and ordered him to pay the IBTA's legal costs.

That's a smackdown from a very conservative court in a very conservative state, but it's not likely to be a wakeup call for the man who wrote a book on the constitutionality of taxes and who is being pursued by the Internal Revenue Service for payment of $500,000 in federal taxes.

Now, Hart has dragged his constituents into the fight. The latest reports from northern Idaho, where he's facing challengers in his bid for re-election, show that Hart used $1,000 in campaign funds to help cover his legal fees. The Idaho Secretary of State's office says this is completely legal.

It may be legal, but is it ethical to use campaign funds on this mess?

Voters in District 2B can answer that question at the ballot box. Their answer should be a resounding "No."

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