FLDS property tax problem looms anew

A door-to-door effort to collect property tax payments from a polygamous sect living at the Utah/Arizona state line wrapped up just two months ago.

Now it may have to be ramped up again.

A property survey aimed at breaking block parcels owned by the sect into individual tax lots in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., is still not finished. So notices can’t be sent to individual property owners.

But taxes are due in the towns, home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

A partial tax payment of $609,128.28 is due on the sect’s property in Colorado City by Oct. 31; the other half will be due in March. On Nov. 30, taxes on property in Hildale will be due, though values have not yet been set. Last year, the bill was $261,475.

Court-appointed fiduciary Bruce R. Wisan, who oversees the sect’s communal property trust, wants to avoid last year’s laborious process of posting tax demand notices on individual homes. But how?

“Nobody will admit dealing with it in the past,” he said. “I am having a hard time deciding who to deal with [about] it now.”

Wisan has been in charge of the United Effort Plan Trust, which holds virtually all property in the twin towns, since May 2005 when it was placed under a Utah court’s oversight. That move came after several civil lawsuits targeted the trust’s assets.

In 2005, Wisan initially told residents to hold off on paying their property taxes until they received individual notices. That proved a bigger challenge than expected and Wisan reversed course, asking residents to pay up.

He got little response until he sent letters to FLDS leaders and occupants of the community’s largest homes, demanding they make payments or face eviction. They paid.

Wisan then had to repeat the process home by home.

Next week, he will send letters to three prominent FLDS leaders – acting bishop Lyle Jeffs among them – asking for suggestions about how to collect taxes this go-round.

“I have my doubts as to whether they will respond,” he said. “I am not sure anything has changed from last year.”

So he is prepared to target leaders and big homes, hoping to use them as an example, and then go door-to-door with tax demand notices once again.

He spent thousands of dollars in UEP funds last year on that task and figures it was an expense for the twin towns, too, whose police officers were often asked to stand by during postings.

“It is ridiculous I have to use trust money to collect taxes,” Wisan said.

There is another option, he said. Residents could just go to the counties and “pay the same amount, give or take, as last year.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
The Salt Lake Tribune, USA
Oct. 9, 1006
Brooke Adams

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This post was last updated: Monday, October 9, 2006 at 3:32 PM, Central European Time (CET)