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Taxpayer who failed to file for Freeport exemption gets a pass

A Grady County boat manufacturer will not have to pay as much in county ad valorem taxes as he thought after failing to file for Freeport exemption.
On Tuesday night, the Grady County Commission voted unanimously to grant Seminole Marine the Freeport exemption on approximately $1.7 million of inventory.
Paul Hoppes, owner of Seminole Marine, told county commissioners without the exemption his tax bill would be about $24,650 more than in previous years.
He also said that in anticipation of a favorable ruling by the board, he had paid out nearly $34,000 in Christmas bonuses to his employees last week.
“It’s not that we didn’t have the money to pay or that I’m anti-tax, it was just a dumb mistake,” Hoppes said.
The boat manufacturer, which is located in Milestone Industrial Park and employees 150, blamed the problem on his new accountants, who failed to file for the Freeport exemption.
Grady County Administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, had originally considered recommending the board level a 30-50 percent penalty, but after doing some research he recommended the board grant the exemption without penalty.
However, the administrator suggested the county commission adopt a policy so that in the future it will be a matter of policy what the penalty is if a taxpayer fails to file for the exemption.
“Different counties charge different percentages. I think we need a policy, but at this point let’s clear it up and move on,” Johnson said.
Commissioner June Knight asked Hoppes if the county assessed a penalty could he demand his accountants pay it, but Hoppes said that both of the accounting firms he uses said filing for the exemption was not in their scope of work.
The boat manufacturer claimed he planned to begin using local accountants in the future.

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