Lobbyist: Oklahoma Supreme Court Decision May Mean Money for Schools

By Price, Marie | THE JOURNAL RECORD, October 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Lobbyist: Oklahoma Supreme Court Decision May Mean Money for Schools


Price, Marie, THE JOURNAL RECORD


A new decision from the Oklahoma Supreme Court holding that the intangible Oklahoma property of AT&T is taxable for ad valorem purposes could mean more than $11.2 million for property tax recipients such as schools and counties.

It could also open the door to taxation of trademarks and patents, one Oklahoma City tax lawyer not involved in the litigation said Wednesday.

The $11.2 million figure represents what was placed in escrow a couple of years ago for tax years 2005, 2006 and 2007 while the litigation was pending. With interest, the final total will be more.

The telecommunications utility and the state Board of Equalization reached a settlement regarding taxes owed on other types of AT&T property in Oklahoma, leaving the issue of intangible property for the court to resolve.

Andy Morgan, a spokesman for AT&T, said the company respects the court, but is disappointed by the decision.

"We'll take a closer look at the ruling to evaluate our options," he said. "While not addressed in this decision, we are concerned that similar companies are being assessed different amounts of taxes on intangible property. We believe equal tax treatment is particularly important in this very competitive environment."

Joel Robison, associate executive director and chief lobbyist for the Oklahoma Education Association, said the decision will release badly needed funding for state schools.

"We're pleased that the court sided with the lower court's determination that Southwestern Bell or AT&T did have intangible property that should have been on the ad valorem tax rolls," he said. "We're sure that it's going to be very beneficial to the schools and the school kids around the state of Oklahoma."

Shelley Shelby, director of legislative services and a staff attorney with the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, said the justices' decision should clear up the issue, so that schools will not have to deal with future protests on this particular point.

"The law is now very clear that intangible property, other than that specifically listed in the constitution, is actually taxable ad valorem-wise," Shelby said.

Article 10, Section 6A of the Oklahoma Constitution lists several types of intangible property that are exempt from ad valorem taxes, including money, accounts and bills receivable, bonds and related evidences of debt, stock, final judgments, annuities and interests in property held in trust or on deposit in the state.

The Oklahoma justices agreed with the Court of Tax Review that only intangible property listed in that constitutional section is tax-exempt. …

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