SkyWest Airlines sues Fresno County assessor-recorder over tax assessments

The Fresno BeeJuly 15, 2014 

SkyWest Airlines has sued Fresno County Assessor-Recorder Paul Dictos over his property tax assessments of the airline's fleet at Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

The lawsuit, filed last week in Fresno County Superior Court, accuses Dictos of using incorrect data for its tax calculations for the 2009 tax year and then intentionally misapplying the applicable property tax statute by failing to give the airline a required deduction for "economic obsolescence" of its fleet.

Economic obsolescence is a form of depreciation, or a loss in value caused by unfavorable conditions, such as a declining economy and a reduced demand for the product.

Because of alleged miscalculation, Dictos' assessment was more than 300% higher than the correct value, court papers say.

The Utah-based airline wants a refund of $111,468, the lawsuit says. The airline also is asking for attorneys fees and money to cover the cost of filing the lawsuit and arguing it to a jury.

Dictos said Tuesday that his tax assessment of the airline was correct.

"The airline is fighting a losing battle," he said. "They are wasting their money on this lawsuit."

California law permits counties to assess property tax on commercial airplanes based in part on how much time they spend at a particular airport. The property taxes are separate from landing fees the airlines are charged for doing business at the airport.

SkyWest's lawyers C. Stephen Davis, Cris K. O'Neall and Andrew W. Bodeau of Los Angeles say in court papers that the taxable value of the airline's fleet at Fresno Yosemite International Airport is $9.99 million, but Dictos "erroneously determined the total allocated taxable value to be $19,853,477."

Before filing the lawsuit, SkyWest filed a claim with the county in August last year, but it was rejected.

SkyWest, as well as Southwest and United, also have sued Sacramento County over property tax assessments for the 2009 tax year, demanding refunds totaling $2 million. In addition, the three carriers, along with American, AirTran and Envoy airlines, have sued Los Angeles County over the same issue, demanding a combined $7 million in property tax refunds, according to published reports.

In total, nearly 45 similar lawsuits have been filed statewide. Authorities say the lawsuits contest only the 2009 tax year because the other tax years have been resolved.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, plopez@fresnobee.com or @beecourts on Twitter.

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