Montana News

Jul 3, 2014 2:15 PM by Sanjay Talwani (sanjay@kxlh.com)

Montana and Verizon settle $37M tax dispute

HELENA -- Some Montana counties will soon be able to use millions of dollars that have been held up in an ongoing tax dispute with Verizon Wireless.

The Department of Revenue and Verizon have reached an agreement on more than $37 million in property taxes paid under protest (out of nearly $52 million in total taxes paid) since 2009, the department said Wednesday.

Under the settlement, the state and most Montana counties will share about $26 million of that and Verizon will get a refund of about $11 million.

Dan Whyte, deputy chief legal counsel for the Department of Revenue, called the settlement good for counties and the state.

The dispute centered on how the state values some of the assets of Verizon (and, formerly, Alltel Wireless, which Verizon now owns). A judge had ordered the state to revise how it values "intangible property" (such as copyrights and patents).

"In order to be able to avoid the vagaries of litigation, to allow several million dollars of protested taxed to be released both to the counties and the state ... the department determined that it was a good idea to settle this case," Whyte said.

He said most Montana counties are affected by the settlement, holding the protested payments but until now unable to spend the funds. He said that in past cases, the counties' share has been about 80% of the protested taxes.

The settlement follows a similar deal reached last month with cable and Internet provider Charter Communications.