Friday, February 5, 2010

Tax & beer news before the big game

I love the subheading--“An assessment battle brewing in Fort Collins.” The Reporter-Herald reports that beverage giant Anheuser-Busch is appealing its property tax assessment in Colorado. For tax geeks and football fans, this story may whet your whistle before Sunday:
FORT COLLINS — Anheuser-Busch is challenging its property tax assessment for the plant just outside of Fort Collins.

If a state panel agrees with the company, Larimer County stands to lose $1 million per year in tax money.

Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson took exception to the company claim that the county’s $90 million valuation was inflated by $40 million.

He questioned why the company, which was purchased by InBev in 2008, now questions the valuation.

“We have a new company that is coming in and gaming the system,” said Johnson. “This company would be paying less than its fair share, and everyone else will be paying more than their fair share.

“I think that’s a crappy thing for an employer in Larimer County to do.”

Anheuser-Busch opened in Larimer County in 1988 and has since increased production from 6.1 million barrels of beer to 11.2 million in 2007.

The assessed valuation has hovered around $90 million since 2003 without any protest from the company, said Christine Murray, certified general appraiser with the Larimer County Assessor’s Office.

But this year, Anheuser-Busch claimed its value for 2009 is $50 million — much less than the $90 million designated by Murray.

“The number they’re looking at, that $50 million, is random,” said Murray, who stands behind her assessment and says it meshes with those of similar properties. “Nobody seems to know (where it came from.)”

The brewery’s general manager, Kevin Fahren-krog, however, said in a written statement that the figure is from an independent property tax consultant. The consultant, he said, based his figure on similar properties within Larimer County and across the United States.

“We review assessments on our property nationwide on an annual basis and in the current economic climate realize that market values have declined,” according to his statement.

“Anheuser-Busch is a significant tax payer in Larimer County, paying more than $8 million per year in real and personal property taxes.

“We seek to work with the county to pay our share.”

In other football-related property tax news, former NFL lineman Paul Runyan has made the papers recently for grazing donkeys to get a property tax break under New Jersey law. Here’s a tip for Decatur residents—grazing donkeys won’t get you a tax break here, and they’ll just eat your flowers anyway.

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