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Rep. Gary Knight (R-Livermore Falls)
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For Immediate Release

Date: 06/12/12

Rep. Knight: new Board of Tax Appeals is pro-consumer

AUGUSTA - One of the least publicized actions of the 125th Legislature will begin July 1, when the Maine Board of Tax Appeals is established, overhauling the procedures for appealing decisions by the State Tax Assessor.

Under the new system, taxpayers will have the right to appeal adverse decisions to the Board or Superior Court under "de novo" standards, meaning the appellant can begin fresh, with new facts, new arguments or new evidence. Indeed, even a final decision of the Board of Tax Appeals can be appealed to Superior Court, where it would again be regarded as de novo.

State Rep. Gary Knight (R-Livermore Falls), who sponsored the legislation, LD 1750, said the new system is pro-consumer and pro-small business.

"The Board's purpose is to give taxpayers a means to resolve disputes with the Bureau of Revenue Services through an independent entity and ensure due process," said Rep. Knight, House chair of the Taxation Committee. "It will increase fairness and encourage the prompt and inexpensive resolution of disputes."

LD 1750, "An Act To Create the Maine Board of Tax Appeals," passed both bodies of the Legislature with overwhelming support and was signed into law by Governor LePage on May 25. As emergency legislation, it took effect immediately.

"One of the most important protections for taxpayers is the de novo provision for appeals to both the Board and Superior Court," said State Rep. Paul Bennett (R-Kennebunk), a Taxation Committee member. "Without a de novo standard, the taxpayer would have to hire a tax lawyer for the initial appeal for fear of making an irreversible mistake. That raises the expense and complexity of the undertaking. With de novo, where you start over again with your appeal, just as if it's a new case, you can avoid the cost of a lawyer at the beginning and retain counsel only later if you need to."

The Board of Tax Appeals will consist of three members, all appointed by the governor to three-year terms and subject to review by the Taxation Committee. It will be an independent entity within the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, not subject to the supervision or control of Maine Revenue Services. In order to comply with certain provisions of federal law, the new Board replaces the Independent Appeals Office, which was created in 2011.

For a taxpayer to qualify for a Board of Tax Appeals hearing, at least $5,000 must be at issue, including penalties and interest. Cases involving less than $5,000 can be appealed directly to Superior Court but do not meet the threshold for a Board procedure. A remaining recourse for all taxpayers is the Taxpayer Advocate, put in place last year to help taxpayers throughout the tax assessing process or an appeal. ###

Jay Finegan
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445