KINGMAN – Mohave County will not have to refund nearly a half million dollars in tax payments to about three dozen Golden Shores property owners.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Dean Fink ruled May 19 in Arizona Tax Court that a state law passed in April 2012 to order the refunds was unconstitutional.
District 2 Sup. Hildy Angius of Bullhead City said the decision was a huge win for Mohave County and its taxpayers.
U.S. v. Aria was a federal lawsuit started in August 1994 against the property owners on behalf of the Fort Mojave Indian tribe, which asserted jurisdiction. After the property owners won the lawsuit in 2009, Mohave County requested back taxes from 1994 to 2009. The property owners asked the state legislature for tax relief.
The legislature passed HB-2178, which required the county to forgive taxes or to refund $454,058 in property taxes to 37 qualified property owners in a subdivision east of the Colorado River, who paid 22 years of property taxes by the end of the 2012 tax year.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne requested a legal opinion from the Arizona Tax Court. Horne determined in July 2013 that HB-2178 is unconstitutional and invalid because it improperly gives tax benefits to a few Golden Shores property owners without giving the same benefits to other property owners in a similar circumstance.
The county, backed by Horne’s opinion, argued that it should not have to refund back taxes to property owners who own land in a 130-acre triangle near the Fort Mojave tribal land. The federal lawsuit was about the piece of land that used to be in California but now sits in Arizona after the Colorado River changed course.