August 15, 2006, Charleston Gazette

Tax break for Bayer reversed

Judge rules error due to negligence

A Kanawha County judge has ordered Bayer Corp. to give back about a half-million dollars the company got as a tax break. The Aug. 10 ruling by Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey Walker reverses the Kanawha County Commission's decision from Feb. 19, 2004.

Commissioners had granted Bayer relief for taxes paid in 2001, 2002 and 2003 based on clerical errors. Bayer's counsel said the company made unintentional mistakes on tax returns for its South Charleston and Institute chemical plants.

The company was given a tax break of more than $450,000, based on an evaluation of about $14 million. The tax break passed by a 2-1 vote, with Commission President Kent Carper dissenting. "They got an unprecedented special tax break, and this was an unprecedented decision," Carper said Monday. "Never before had a company come in and claimed they should get a tax break and gotten it."

Carper said the commission, library board, school board and other county agencies had already spent the collected tax money, and property owners had to make it up when it was taken away, he said.

In her ruling, Walker said the mistakes on Bayer's tax returns were a result of negligence rather than a clerical error. The company must pay the entire tax break amount to the various levying bodies, the judge said. County commissioners will discuss the decision at a meeting today at 9 a.m.
By Jessica Legge