2017 Special Election Greg Gianforte Montana Politics Rob Quist The Media

Is Greg Gianforte Not Paying His Fair Share of Taxes? Is the Gazette Covering For Him?

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Greg Gianforte has drastically underpaid his share of taxes for a 5.01-acre parcel of land in Gallatin County, depriving taxpayers of significant revenue while neighbors literally across the street paid tax rates 2700 times higher than his own.

A search of the Montana Cadastral system reveals that Mr. Gianforte owns a 5.01-acre piece of land in Gallatin County that has an appraised tax value of $223. A source at the Department of Revenue indicates that the tax paid on that land would “hardly be worth the cost of mailing an invoice,” while neighbors were likely paying closer to $1500 per acre for land in an identical condition in the same neighborhood.

Contextually, the valuation makes no sense. Directly across the street to the east, another undeveloped property is listed as having a land value of $346,234 for 2.85 acres ($121,488/acre). Across the street to the south, a 10.2-acre plot is listed with a value of $1,511,888 ($148,224/acre).

Gianforte’s land? $44.50 an acre.

That appraisal value of $223 for Mr. Gianforte’s property lists the land as “non-qualified ag land,” status the Department of Revenue says is available to parcels of land under 160 acres only if the property is at least one acre in size, used “in an agricultural manner,” and capable of producing $1,500 of annual gross income from livestock or crops.

Photos of the parcel demonstrate that it certainly is not used for agricultural production: there is no fence to keep livestock in and no crops are being produced. In fact, when sources visited the land today, they saw a landscaper doing work on the land, hardly something one would associate with agricultural production.

In addition, Mr. Gianfore listed no agricultural income on either his financial disclosure form when he ran for governor or Congress, and I could not locate any record of an application for an agricultural classification for the parcel.

The most likely scenario is that Gianforte’s land was originally part of an at least 20-acre parcel, qualifying it for the reduced tax rate and then not properly reclassified when subdivided.

According to Department of Revenue guidelines, parcels have to be between 20 and 160 acres to be classified as non-qualifying agricultural land. That’s the reason so many “ranchettes” are sold at 20.1 acres in Montana, to avoid significant property tax liability.

Because Mr. Gianforte’s land was not properly reclassified, he took an undeserved tax break that meant less money went to the state, Gallatin County, and area schools.

And all of this needs to be put in context. Mr. Gianforte spent millions of dollars lying in this campaign about his opponent’s financial record, distorting the truth about debt and taxes owed, while, the entire time, failing to pay his fair share of taxes on his property in Gallatin County.

It’s even more egregious when you remember that Mr. Gianforte claimed assets of as much as $327 million dollars when he filed for the House seat. Despite that vast personal wealth, despite his calls for personal responsibility and lack of sympathy for those who’ve endured economic hardship, Mr. Gianforte has been willing to take tax breaks meant for farmers while his neighbors paid tax rates 2700 times higher than his own. That’s rank hypocrisy of the highest order and should be discussed in this campaign.

Unfortunately, the press that has given so much attention to rental property not owned by Rob Quist has not paid attention to Mr. Gianforte’s tax situation.

Given the coverage of tax issues in this race by the Billings Gazette, two sources confirm they sent information about Gianforte’s tax records and land valuation to the Billings Gazette’s Tom Lutey, who inexplicably chose to ignore the story, despite running a series of inflammatory stories about Rob Quist’s taxes that were so riddled with errors that the Lee papers across the state had to run an opinion piece that stated “Tom Lutey doesn’t understand property rights and taxation law, in fact, even the headline was incorrect.”

It’s hard to understand why Greg Gianforte believes he doesn’t need to pay fair valuation for his land. It’s even harder to understand why the press chose not to hold him accountable for it. Perhaps these last two days will see some coverage of this latest example of Gianforte’s disregard for ordinary Montanans and willingness to put his interests ahead of those of the rest of the state.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

10 Comments

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  • In the era of Trump, dodging taxes is a badge of honor. Let government budget shortfalls be absorbed by the poor and middle-class. For the very poor: no food stamps, no Medicaid, no assistance in paying heating bills, no Meals-on-Wheels. For the middle-class: no Social Security disability benefits or health insurance subsidies. Fewer student loans for both classes. Plenty of money for defense and that Mexican border wall, and tax cuts for the very rich. And don’t forget, Gianforte is one of Trump’s biggest backers. I think I’m going to be sick.

  • I’m not a log in guy.
    I admire this double themed Article all the more,
    because it was researched, thought out,
    and put together too late to turn votes.

    I suppose Don did it partially for the record. For Montana History.

    Mr. Gianforte, win or loose, reconsider paying fair taxes.
    Reconsider divesting from Gazprom and Rosneft.
    Reconsider raiding public money to finance private schools.
    Reconsider robbing the needy to satisfy the greedy.
    Reconsider good works and grace.

  • The law reads “capable of producing $1500 annual revenue”. I have a few acres I rent to some Billings people who have built a corral to hold 3 horses.

    I get $150 a month.

    This article is written as if GG purposely hacked the counties computers to get a tax break. Your issue is with the county and not Greg. What you fail to mention is zoning. Could it be that the other parcels have been zoned commercial or for multi residential use?

    I’m sure you’ll check into that.

      • Sorry no link. We zoned the property for eventual development after we retire. Has a designation of ag/single family homes at no less than an acre in size. We’re being taxed at a valuation of $150,000 mostly because of two structures that exist with the acreage.

        My point was that a smaller parcel could qualify as ag if someone keep a few horses on it and charged a lease greater than $1500/yr.

        Again, unless you could prove collusion with the county (or Russians) your complaint is with the county assessor.

        • The owner of this property did not declare any income from ag on either his disclosure form when he ran for governor or Congress. And the change in valuation demonstrates that the land was improperly classified.

          Surely a man of Mr. Gianforte’s experience and knowledge knew he was not being assessed at the proper value after he subdivided his land and this issue is certainly comparable to the breathless coverage from the Billings Gazette about Rob Quist’s barn.

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