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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Realtors urged to seal tax victory against City of Portland

We noted last month that the City of Portland had finally lost its case against most realtors around town about whether the realtors owe the city's business license tax. Many of the real estate folks who have been paying the tax all these years (some for decades) are entitled to refunds. But there's a statute of limitations for seeking those refunds, typically three years, and it's not clear when it's going to run out for some of those years.

The Oregon Association of Realtors has been trying to get a formal answer from the city as to how long its members have to file for refunds going back as far as 2008, but a clear directive, in writing, has not been forthcoming. Just in case, the OAR has warned its members to get cracking on filing their refund claims. A recent e-mail from that group to its members declared in part:

While the statute of limitations for refund claims is generally three years from the time the return is filed or two years from the date the tax is paid, whichever period expires later, the City advised in its website posting that it would extend the statute of limitations by "a period of not less than 60 days once a final decision by the court has been made." On March 8, 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court issued its order denying the City's appeal. The City noted this fact on its website on March 13, 2012, and informed real estate brokers that the City Attorney and the City Revenue Bureau would be meeting to determine next steps and that additional guidance may be provided by the City at the end of March regarding refund claims for past tax years.

To date, the City has provided no such guidance. It is unclear whether the Oregon Supreme Court's order of March 8, 2012, is considered a "final decision" so as to trigger the running of the 60-day period that the City has afforded in which to file refund claims. This is true because the Oregon Supreme Court has not issued its concluding judgment in the case. While the City Attorney has informally stated to OAR's counsel that he believes that the order is not yet a "final decision," OAR is sending this notice to its members to inform them that it is conceivable that the City could later take a contrary position that the 60-day clock is, in fact, ticking. If the City were to argue that the Oregon Supreme Court order dated March 8, 2012, was a "final decision," it might also argue that refund claims are due no later than May 7, 2012. OAR is therefore sending this notice to inform members that they should immediately consult their tax or legal advisors as to whether they should file a tax refund claim at this time.

Not trusting oral assurances from Portland City Hall bureaucrats? Can't say we blame them.

Comments (1)

I'd say file for a refund of every year you paid it.

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