State Politics

Idaho lawmaker claimed tax exemption for 2 different homes - so 1 must go, board rules

Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird.
Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird.

If your vehicle is registered in Idaho County, you pay your taxes from an address in Idaho County and you are an elected official representing Idaho County, the state can’t consider you a resident of Ada County, officials here say.

Ada County commissioners voted unanimously Monday morning to deny an appeal by Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, over a homeowner’s exemption she claimed for her Garden City house in 2016.

Commissioners Dave Case, Jim Tibbs and Rick Visser also act as the county’s Board of Equalization, which hears appeals on property assessments and related tax exemptions.

In 2016, Giddings took a homeowner’s exemption both on her Garden City house, which she had owned since 2010, and in Idaho County, where she was living and building a house. Idaho allows one homeowner’s exemption on a taxpayer’s primary, occupied residence, basing it on where a person lives as of Jan. 1 each year.

When the Ada County Assessor’s Office learned of the dual exemptions, it sent Giddings a notice it intended to collect the taxes she would have owed without the exemption. That’s a total $1,230, according to Assessor Robert McQuade.

Giddings filed an appeal on March 30, saying she had received incorrect information from the assessor’s office about whether the two exemptions could overlap. That issue didn’t arise Monday as the commissioners announced their decision.

“I did not find (Giddings’ Garden City home) was owner-occupied,” Visser said Monday. “It appears that Ms. Giddings was … a resident of Idaho County, not Ada County, on Jan. 1, 2016.”

As evidence, Visser said Giddings “registered to vote in Idaho County on Jan. 17, 2015. She has voted in Idaho County since May of 2015. She has not voted in Ada County since November of 2014. Since Aug. 6, 2015, her car has been registered in Idaho County. Her mailing address on the state income tax return has been in Idaho County since tax year 2015. And in her declaration of candidacy filed with the Secretary of State on Feb. 29, 2016, Ms. Giddings certifies that she has been a resident and registered elector of Idaho County for one year preceding the general election, which would have been November 2015.”

Tibbs said there was a “preponderance of evidence” showing McQuade followed state law in denying Giddings the homeowner’s exemption.

“What stuck out for me is … Ms. Giddings is an elected official from Idaho County,” said Case.

Giddings still owns the Ada County house, and has not taken the homeowners exemption on it in 2017 or 2018, county records show.

She attended Monday’s brief hearing. After, she declined comment on the decision or if she will appeal the matter further — either to the state Board of Tax Appeals or to district court.

Giddings was elected to the Legislature in 2016. She is unopposed in November to retain her central Idaho legislative seat.

Cynthia Sewell is Idaho Statesman’s government and investigative reporter. Contact her at (208) 377-6428, or @CynthiaSewell on Twitter.