- Associated Press - Monday, May 16, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A multimillion-dollar income tax dispute that began during the Kathleen Sebelius administration could influence whether Gov. Sam Brownback signs a bill designed to help taxpayers challenge rulings of the Board of Tax Appeals.

On the final night of the legislative session earlier this month, lawmakers passed the measure allowing taxpayers to appeal any decision by the governor-appointed tax board decision to district court, where they can present new evidence.

Brownback’s office tried to restrict such trials to property tax appeals and require people appealing income or other taxes to go to the Kansas Court of Appeals, where no new evidence is allowed, The Wichita Eagle (https://bit.ly/1WBxbc7 ) reported.

While property tax appeals primarily affect revenue for local governments, income and excise tax cases affect state revenue.

Pizza magnate Gene Bicknell, who once owned the largest number of Pizza Hut franchises in the nation, said the governor’s effort is driven by Bicknell’s $42 million income tax dispute.

Brownback’s office seemingly confirmed that claim in a statement on Friday.

“We have expressed our concern that the language removed from this bill provides an unfair exemption for one individual who has tried, and lost, a case,” said Eileen Hawley, the governor’s spokeswoman in an e-mail.

She said Brownback has not yet decided whether to sign the bill.

Bicknell paid the state $42 million in 2013 after an unfair ruling by what was then called the Court of Tax Appeals. He appealed and won a new review of his case late last year.

If the state loses to Bicknell, it would have to repay the money, which is more than half the $81 million the state is estimated to have in the bank at the end of the next fiscal year.

Bicknell grew up in Pittsburg and now lives in Florida. He sold his company, NPC International, in 2006, sparking a battle with the Kansas Department of Revenue.

The department said Bicknell was a Kansas resident at the time of the sale, but Bicknell claims he already had made Florida his primary residence.

The Kansas Court of Appeals ruled in September that the Court of Tax Appeals had “expressly ignored or disregarded” relevant regulations when it decided Bicknell lived in Kansas when he sold his company.

The Kansas Supreme Court now is considering whether to take up the case.


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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