State Politics

Ada County believes lawmaker wrongly claimed tax exemption, asks to be repaid

Rep. Priscilla Giddings.
Rep. Priscilla Giddings.

The Ada County Assessor’s Office intends to collect back taxes from a state lawmaker who it believes received a 2016 homeowner’s exemption in error.

The issue involves Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird.

Giddings received the Ada County exemption for property she owns in Garden City, at a time when she was living and building a home in Idaho County. She also was registered to vote in Idaho County, and subsequently ran for election there, winning the 7th Legislative District House A seat in the 2016 general election.

State law requires legislative candidates to live in the district they wish to represent a full year before the election — meaning Giddings, to qualify for office, had to be a resident of the 7th District at least a year prior to the 2016 election.

The 7th District includes Idaho, Clearwater and Shoshone counties, as well as a small corner of Bonner County.

State law also allows homeowners to claim a property tax exemption for half the value of their primary residence, up to a maximum of $100,000.

In Giddings’ case, she received an exemption from Ada County for her Garden City home, as well as a second exemption from Idaho County for the new home she was building there.

Ada County officials have no problem with that, as a second exemption for new construction is allowed by law. However, Giddings would only have qualified for the exemption on her Garden City residence if she considered it to be her permanent home — a condition she would not have meet if she was a resident of the 7th District in 2015.

“The evidence we have is that she didn’t consider herself to be (an Ada County) resident,” said Ada County Assessor Robert McQuade.

Consequently, his office is sending Giddings a “notice of intent” to collect the property tax she avoided when claiming the 2016 homeowners exemption.

The letter gives Giddings 10 days to respond. If she feels the office is in error, McQuade said, she’ll need to provide evidence supporting her case.

If she doesn’t respond, or if the evidence she provides doesn’t satisfy the Assessor’s Office, “then we’ll send her an assessment notice and bill her for the amount (of the back taxes),” he said.

If she still disagrees with the assessment, Giddings could appeal the case to the Ada County Board of Equalization.

Giddings, who previously has indicated she doesn’t have cellphone service in White Bird, did not respond to an email inquiry Thursday.

Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.

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