TAYLOR COUNTY—At a recent Taylor County Commission Meeting, Assessor Christa Kinsey revealed that a company owed the county a large sum of money, after failing to properly file its tax reports.
“This is an exoneration for an oil and gas company,” she told the commission. “They were sent their business form and through state code, if they don’t file, they may be subject to a 10 percent penalty added onto the value of their filings from the year before.”
She said that Helmerich & Payne International Drilling failed to submit their forms for this tax year, and although Taylor County is not a county that utilizes the 10 percent penalty, they would still owe the county $230,503, as of right now.
“We attempted to contact them, but our call went unanswered,” Kinsey revealed. “Then toward mid-September, we received a call stating that they were no longer operating within the county,” Kinsey revealed.
She said that she was uncomfortable clearing the slate for the company, because it was such a large amount. So, she contacted Randy Saunders, an attorney that she has on retainer and received advice from him.
“This figure is already on the books,” she added. “According to the state code, the attorney doesn’t think that they have a leg to stand on, because it was their responsibility to notify us that they were no longer here.”
The company, who was in operation off of Rt 119 North, going to Morgantown, claims that they had no idea that they were supposed to contact the Taylor County Assessor’s Office to let them know that they were no longer operational in the county.
“If they didn’t do what they were supposed to do, how is that our responsibility,” voiced Commissioner Sam Gerkin.
During the meeting, the commissioners called the attorney, who revealed that according to WV State Code 11-3-27(a) an exoneration could only be sought if there had been a clerical error or mistake in the recorded information.
He said that at that point the taxpayer may request an exoneration, but that it would have to be heard in hearing before the county commission.
“I believe that the law is squarely in favor of the assessor, and I am prepared to present the legal arguments before you all, even by telephone at the next county commission hearing,” commented Saunders.
Because the exoneration has been submitted and has been presented to the commission by the assessor, the statue says that a hearing would need to be set for the next county commission meeting and would have the be the first item on the agenda.
“We want to make sure we give the taxpayer due process, but I will say that I believe that everything was done appropriately,” voiced the Saunders.
The Commission would then be tasked with sending out a notice, both through certified mail and standard mail, that there would be a hearing and that the taxpayer would need to be present to present their case then.
“That way if the case goes before the Circuit Court judge, we would be able to say, ‘We have done everything we could to let these folks know there was a hearing,” stated council.
“This is about what the legal avenues allow,” Saunders voiced. “They can’t show up at the eleventh hour and say, ‘Hey we never told you this, but we just found out we have to pay taxes, but we would like not to because of X, Y and Z.’ Here what you have is a case where Helmerich failed in their duty of care to let the assessor’s office know they had left the county.”
Commissioner Tony Veltri said it was his belief if they granted an exoneration for this company, a precedent would be set that would not be beneficial to the county.
“I think that we better follow the law and do what we have to do,” he said.
The Taylor County Commission set the hearing for the first agenda item of December 3 meeting, where the company will appear and present additional information in the matter. The meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m., in the conference room of Taylor County Courthouse, Annex #2, formerly the old bank building.