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Bridgestone asks for refund after tax error
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Bridgestone Golf is asking Newton County for a tax refund of $108,000, because some of Bridgestone’s equipment was incorrectly assessed on its tax filings in 2006 and 2007.

According to attorney Pamela Studdard, working on behalf of Bridgestone, the company did not complete its 2006 and 2007 tax returns correctly. Some equipment was classified incorrectly and, therefore, its taxable value was higher than it should have been.

In her letter Aug. 6, 2009 letter, Studard says that the equipment was incorrectly valued by the Tax Assessors’s office. The forms have since been corrected by Bridgestone and the Board of Tax Assessors approved the company’s request to reclassify the equipment. Now Bridgestone is asking for the tax refund, which must be approved by the Newton County Board of Commissioners.

The BOC can decide whether it wants to refund any money that was paid to the county, state, school board and other county tax bodies, which totals more than $85,000, said Tax Commissioner’s Barbara Dingler Tuesday. The remaining $23,000 was collected by Covington and must be voted upon by the Covington City Council.

In a Dec. 17 letter to the BOC, Chief Tax Appraiser Tommy Knight said Bridgestone’s tax returns from 2006 and 2007 were sworn and signed by the company’s treasurer Takato Satomi.

"They were then submitted to the county. The county simply accepted the return as valid with correct total. The normal process for the county is to take the return and make sure total match along with making sure any investor that qualified for Freeport Exemption in fact receives the exempt status," he said in the letter. "The assessors agree all machinery and equipment should be in group 2 (the proper classification), however, we disagree that his error was made by anyone in our office."

Bridgestone was requesting that the refund be granted and credited toward their 2009 taxes, which have not yet been paid, because the case has been pending, Dingler said.

The BOC heard from Dingler and Knight Tuesday. District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing requested that County Attorney Tommy Craig advise the board on how to proceed. Craig said the county ahs encountered situations like this in the past, and he suggested that the BOC table the matter, so he could review all of the facts with Dingler and Knight. He would then bring back a recommendation to the board.

Ewing made the motion to table the matter. District 2 Commissioner Earnest Simmons seconded the motion, but added a caveat.

"Going with the idea it’s their error, they’re trying to recoup significant amount of money in this economy which is going to be very, very tough on the taxpayers. Again we can go and meet with them and talk all day but the bottom line is this was their error and you know this is going to be tough to sallow for any of our citizens who live in this county to accept this significant amount of money."

The BOC approved the tabling. District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz owns The Oask Golf Course and recused herself because she has a significant business relationship with Bridgestone Golf, whose main activity is golf ball manufacturing.

If the BOC denies the request for a refund in the future, Dingler said Bridgestone has the right to appeal the request to the Newton County Superior Court under state law.

$108,419.07 - $23,090.95 = $85,328.12