Bridgestone asking for tax refund

COVINGTON -- County commissioners delayed a decision Tuesday night on whether to refund more than $108,000 in taxes to a local business.

Bridgestone Sports USA has filed a claim for refund on personal property taxes for tax years 2006 and 2007 totaling $108,419.07.

The request comes following a reclassification of assets by the Board of Tax Assessors in October.

According to Tax Commissioner Barbara Dingler and Chief Appraiser Tommy Knight, Bridgestone incorrectly valued its equipment on tax returns, placing it in a classification higher than it should have been. The returns were sworn and signed by Bridgestone's treasurer. The Tax Assessors Office accepted those values and Bridgestone was billed accordingly.

Knight said while his office does review the values, it must rely on the expertise of the filer.

"We try to look at it. Obviously, we're not experts on all the machinery and equipment all the industries have," he said. "(Bridgestone) manufactures sporting equipment. General Mills manufactures food. We have others that manufacture tires. Bard does medical (products). We're not experts in any of those fields. We rely heavily on what they report to be accurate."

In August, the county received a letter from Pamela Studdard of Studdard, Glisson and Smith Inc., acting as agent on behalf of Bridgestone, reporting the error and requesting a correction.

By law, once made aware of an error, Dingler said she must recommend a new assessment. The reclassification was granted as requested by the Board of Assessors in October. Now, Bridgestone is asking the Board of Commissioners for a refund.

"We must recommend a new assessment regardless of who's error (it is). It's up to the Board of Commissioners to determine if a refund is valid. This is money that was collected, spent and distributed for those fiscal years and the governing authority says yea or nay on if we give the money back or not," Dingler said.

Approximately $23,000 of the requested refund amount was for city of Covington taxes, and Bridgestone will also have to go before the City Council, Dingler said.

Commissioners agreed to table the matter to allow County Attorney Tommy Craig to review the facts with Knight and Dingler.

"This was not our fault, it was their error," District 2 Commissioner Earnest Simmons." They're trying to recoup a significant amount of money on this, which is going to be tough to swallow for every taxpayer who lives in this county."

District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz, who owns The Oaks, a local golf course, recused herself from the discussion and vote due to a business relationship with Bridgestone.