...I'm the taxman"
OKLAHOMA CITY — House Speaker Lance Cargill missed the deadline to pay property taxes on his Harrah law office for six straight years, records at the Oklahoma County Treasurer’s Office show.
Cargill released a statement Friday saying he takes “full responsibility for this error.”
“I certainly apologize to the people of Oklahoma and to my colleagues and will take steps to ensure these matters are handled in a timely and efficient manner in the future,” he said.
Cargill, R-Harrah, is attending a National Conference of State Legislatures event in Florida. His press secretary, Jennifer Mock, said the speaker will take care of any property tax problems as soon as he returns to Oklahoma.
Although he has made all of the late payments on the taxes, Cargill still owes some penalties, Oklahoma County Treasurer Butch Freeman said.
Cargill “is one of my favorite kinds of taxpayers,” Freeman said. When taxpayers have to pay penalties and interest, those fees go to the treasurer’s office for operations, he said.
Cargill has had to pay penalties of $562.44, said Chris Tretheway, comptroller for the treasurer’s office.
Over the past six years, Cargill’s property taxes on his office have ranged from about $700 to $760 annually.
The chief beneficiary of property taxes are schools. Since Cargill paid these property taxes late, the schools did not receive their share until several months later.
Deliquent tax returns: Cargill’s delinquent payments represent another chapter in the speaker’s tax woes. He confirmed last week that he had failed to file both his federal and state personal income tax returns on time for 2005 and 2006.
Cargill said he was due a refund for both of those years on his state taxes.
Cargill has declined to release his tax returns to prove that he is owed refunds.
However, the head of the Oklahoma Tax Commission verified Friday that Cargill’s returns request refunds for both years. The speaker wrote a letter to Chairman Tom Kemp authorizing him to confirm that Cargill’s returns show he is due a refund.
Kemp said Cargill’s returns are currently being processed by the Tax Commission.
Cargill had not filed either federal or state tax returns for the two years but has now taken care of all of the paperwork that was due, his press secretary said Friday.
“The speaker does not want to release his tax returns because they are a private matter,” Mock said, as they are for all citizens.
Cargill has said he and his accountant were to blame for what happened.
Although he had filed for extensions, “those extensions lapsed without the final returns ever being filed,” Cargill said in a statement.
Cargill declined to provide the name of his accountant.
“She’s a private citizen. She’s already been very embarrassed, and as a private citizen, she shouldn’t be dragged into this,” Mock said. Cargill has repeatedly declined to talk about the issue publicly.
Asked at a midweek press conference on government modernization and efficiencies whether he would provide his returns, Cargill said, “I’ve made my statement on that issue.”
The day before, he released a statement that said: “I am human, and I made a mistake. No one is more upset about this than me, especially because I am owed a refund.”
There is no penalty for failing to file a tax return as long as a refund is due, provided they are filed within three years, Tax Commission officials said. However, it is against the law to fail to file.
Possible political fallout: The tax controversy has prompted conversations around the state Capitol about what effect this could have on Cargill’s political future.
The state chairmen of both political parties say the tax mistakes undoubtedly will not be forgotten.
Four other lawmakers, three Democrats and a Republican, also confirmed that they had failed to file state taxes, but none of them hold key leadership positions.
Asked if news of the tax filing problem could damage Cargill’s political future, GOP Party chairman Gary Jones said the news stories obviously have not gone unnoticed.
“When issues like this are brought up, it causes people to take a look,” he said.
“You are under the microscope if you are a state representative; you are under a bigger microscope if you are speaker, and (an even) bigger microscope if you are governor,” Jones said. “These are issues you have to deal with.”
Democratic chairman Ivan Holmes said reports that Cargill failed to file his taxes for two years are bound to emerge again in any of Cargill’s future races.
Holmes noted that at midweek, two Oklahoma City television stations were talking about the issue, and of 15 comments that came in to one station, “not a single one was defending the speaker.”
“They think any public official ought to take care of their tax business, because common people have to,” he said.
Mick Hinton (405) 528-2465
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