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As Huntsman runs, family firm missed paying tax

Published January 4, 2012 7:21 am

Huntsman Corp., which has generated cash to help finance presidential campaign, owes $195,100 so far.
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Jon Huntsman has complained during his presidential campaign that too-high corporate taxes hurt business and job creation. His family's chemical firm — the Huntsman Corp. — may have found an unorthodox way to deal with that, at least temporarily.

It did not pay its 2011 Salt Lake County property taxes on time for its world headquarters. The bill: $195,100, including penalties so far.

"I'm sure it was just an oversight. It will be taken care of," said Tom Muir, a vice president at Huntsman Corp. Jon Huntsman has not been a corporate officer for years of the company, which was founded and is chaired by his father. But the company generated the family fortune that has helped finance much of the former Utah governor's presidential race so far.

Huntsman is not the only one perhaps embarrassed by new delinquent taxpayer lists. Dan Liljenquist, who just resigned from the state Senate and is expected to run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Orrin Hatch, failed to pay his taxes on time. And several well-known businesses also were on lists — led by Intermountain Healthcare failing to pay more than $1 million in taxes on time.

Counties in Utah began over the holiday weekend posting lists of delinquent taxpayers for 2011. Timing for disclosing the missed payment by the Huntsman Corp. may be unfortunate for Jon Huntsman, coming a week before the Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary — the first he is contesting.

The Huntsman Corp.'s world headquarters are in a sleek, modern building high on a hill overlooking the University of Utah's Research Park. Salt Lake County records show it owed, as of Monday, $145,600 in 2011 property taxes and penalties on the three-story building, which tax records said has 82,850 square feet of office space.

It owed another $49,500 in "privilege tax" on the 10 acres where the building sits, on land technically owned by the University of Utah. The Huntsman Corp. was No. 5 on the list of Top 10 tax delinquents in Salt Lake, Utah and Davis counties.

Meanwhile, Liljenquist said he was shocked to hear from The Tribune that he was on the delinquent taxpayer list — and said his wife, Brooke, immediately drove Tuesday to Davis County offices to pay the $2,904 in late taxes and penalties owed. Tax records show his Bountiful home has a market value of $348,373.

"It was just an oversight," he said. He explained that he had just paid off his mortgage. So this was the first year he was responsible for paying the taxes himself, instead of the mortgage company.

"We're also in the process of remodeling our home, so we've had our mail forwarded to us to another address." He said he and his wife do not remember a tax notice arriving in their forwarded mail.

Landing on the delinquent list comes as he is expected to announce soon that he will seek the Republican nomination against incumbent Hatch for the U.S. Senate. "We obviously believe in paying our full taxes," Liljenquist said.

Intermountain Healthcare was No. 1 on the list of delinquent taxpayers, owing a total of $1.13 million.

Most of that — $1.03 million — was for taxes on the large Intermountain Medical Center in Murray. The rest was for land it bought for a new warehouse.

Jess Gomez, spokesman for Intermountain Medical Center, said the taxes were paid early Tuesday.

"We had sent a check on Nov. 29, a day before the deadline" for paying taxes on the hospital, Gomez said. "We're not sure what happened, but that check was lost."

He said the company did not appear to receive a tax notice for the warehouse property, which had still been listed — as of August — on county rolls under the name of the previous owner who sold the property to Intermountain in 2010.

Most others atop delinquency lists are developers. County treasurers have said for years that developers often use nonpayment as a sort of "cheap loan," that does not require an application fee and has interest akin to what they would pay from other lenders.

Of course, if taxes are not paid within five years, the counties seize the property and sell it for the back taxes.

Among some developers near the top of delinquency lists were Midtown Joint Venture in Utah County, $304,034; Cottonwood Estates Development of Salt Lake County, $298,435; Mountain Home Development Corp. of Utah County, $205,202; and Lehi Pointe, $192,195.

Several other well-known companies also were on delinquency lists.

Some include: Singh Petroleum (which operates several Conoco/Circle K convenience stores in Salt Lake and Davis counties), $157,643; the Hotel Peery in downtown Salt Lake City, $69,097; Performax Gyms, $60,471; Lehi Roller Mills, $56,592; Syracuse Stadium Cinemas, $44,782; Barnes Banking (which went into receivership in 2010), $52,348; and Davis Lanes, $26,413.







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