State Supreme Court rules on local tax issue

Published 7:00 am Saturday, February 15, 2020

A Mississippi Supreme Court decision determined that a half million-dollar airport hangar in Picayune is exempt from more than $61,000 in ad valorem taxes.

Of the $61,953 in assessed taxes, the company that owns the hangar, G4 LLC, has paid $34,557. The Court agreed G4 should be refunded the taxes that have been paid.

G4 LLC entered an airport lease with the city of Picayune in 2009, and was assessed ad valorem taxes on the land until 2013. The company paid under protest to avoid a tax sale and petitioned for a refund of the taxes it paid. The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors denied the petition and the local Circuit Court agreed with the Board’s decision.

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However, in a decision handed down on Feb. 6, the state Supreme Court agreed with G4, that the company was automatically exempt from paying ad valorem taxes on the airport property when the lease began.

The Court cited its decision in Rankin County Board of Supervisors v. Lakeland Income Properties, LLC, where the Court determined that municipal airport authorities in Mississippi can only lease property that serves commercial purposes, so G4’s property would automatically be eligible for the tax exemption provided to companies that lease airport property for commercial purposes.

The Pearl River County Board also argued that if G4 was entitled to the automatic exemption, G4 has run out of time to claim the refund, but the Court did not address that argument because the Board did not provide an argument that applied law to the specific case facts.

The Court also determined that G4 demonstrated it had used the leased airport property for commercial purposes.

In its petition to the Board, G4 also asked for a refund of ad valorem taxes paid on lots the company owns in the Tin Hill subdivision. The Court agreed with the lower court that G4 is not entitled to a refund of those taxes. The company claimed the lots were assessed at a value higher than they should have been. However, the Court’s decision notes that there is no record evidence that shows G4 objected to the assessment until years after the assessments were finalized and how the tax assessor determined the property’s value is documented.

County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin declined to comment on the Court’s decision.