Saturday, November 19, 2011

79 aircraft that should have been taxed

County Assessor Jake Zimmerman says his staff discovered 79 aircraft that should have been — but weren't — on county tax rolls. They added $1.6 million to the county's personal property tax billings this year, including $300,000 paid by McCaskill and her husband.

McCaskill disclosed her tax problem to reporters in March after the online news site Politico raised questions about her use of the plane. She hinted that because the county relied on owners to report their own property, there could be others who owed taxes, too.

The Post-Dispatch later analyzed data on federal aircraft registrations, and takeoffs and landings, and compared them with tax accounts. It found several planes that seemed to be based in St. Louis County but weren't on tax rolls.

When asked about the Post-Dispatch findings, Zimmerman said he planned to investigate 'substantial noncompliance" with tax obligations by aircraft owners.

In an interview with the Post-Dispatch last week, Zimmerman said his inquiry was far from over and that his findings could be "the tip of the iceberg."

He said several plane owners reported themselves and declared their property after the Post-Dispatch story. His staff also found taxable aircraft by pressuring private hangars at the county-owned Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield to comply with state law and provide contact information for their tenants.

He said a staff member also analyzed data on takeoffs and landings, and scoured websites, to identify planes flying under the tax radar.

Zimmerman said a few businesses at Spirit continue to refuse to respond to his office's request for information about planes.

"This is a detective story that is going to be going on for months," Zimmerman said.

It's a matter of fairness for people who are paying their taxes.

"What do taxing districts do when revenue is down? They raise taxes," he said.

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