State, Counties Look to BP for Lost Tax Revenues

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State and local governments are making claims with BP for lost property tax, bed tax and doc stamp revenues. Sarasota County has already filed a claim with the company for $240,000.
TAMPA (2010-07-21) -

State and local governments are starting to get in BP’s claims line, asking the company to pay for harm to state and local budgets they say has been caused by the Gulf oil spill.

The claims will be for losses in revenue from property taxes, documentary stamp taxes (commonly called doc stamps), and tourism (or bed) taxes.

“I recall talking to some of my colleagues up in the Panhandle and they were concerned about the drop in property values,” said Tampa lawyer Steve Yerrid, the governor’s special counsel on oil-spill issues. “They were talking about the tremendous...stoppage of the real estate market.

“If you needed to liquidate real estate holdings in the Panhandle, you’d probably do so at 30, 40 cents on the dollar,” he said.

Down the coast, Sarasota County had already filed a claim with BP for $240,000 in lost bed taxes, costs for public relations efforts, and testing of oyster beds. And county financial planners projected a $40 million property tax revenue shortfall.

“That is with no impact from the oil spill whatsoever,” said Jeff Seward, Sarasota County’s chief financial planning officer. “That’s just based on the current economic downturn we’re in.”

On the list of legitimate claims for damage from the oil spill, BP includes “net loss of government revenues.”

“If they can document it, it’s legitimate,” said BP spokesman Phil Cochrane. “We’re looking for folks to say, ‘Hey, I think I’ve got a claim and here’s the evidence of it.’”

Legal experts said the state can file a claim now for whatever harm can be documented, and then officials can go back and file more claims as they find more evidence of oil-related revenue declines.

“The state can submit a claim for what it can prove it has lost now and then you can come back in six months and say, ‘Well, now we’ve lost this,’” said maritime legal expert Carl Nelson, a lawyer with Tampa’s Fowler White Boggs law firm.

“In addition to all of these economic losses, there’s the damage to the natural resources,” Nelson said. “The state has a huge claim for that.”

Click here for more on the BP claims process and what governments are asking for.

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