Sumter County, Ga., tax officials have billed President Carter $1,445 for back property taxes and interest as a result of a reappraisal of the Carter family peanut business, White House officials said yesterday.
The reappraisal, according to documents released yesterday at the White House and in Sumter County, found that in 1975 property owned by the peanut warehouse was undervalued by $88,500, on which $700 in back taxes and $121 in interest is owned. In 1976, the reapprasial found, the property was undervalued by $167,800, on which $1,393 in back taxes and $116 in interest is owed.
In all, the warehouse business owes $2,330 in back taxes and interest. The president's share of this $2,330 tax bill is $1,445. The remainder is owed by Carter's brother Billy, and his mother Lillian, who are partners in the business.
Carter requested the reappraisal and agreed to abide by its findings, after ABC news last month reported that the president's federal income tax returns and his Sumter County property tax records show discrepancies in the value of some warehouse equipment.
According to ABC, in 1975 and 1976, Carter claimed investment tax credits - reducing his federal income taxes - for the purchase of slightly more than $1 million in new equipment for the warehouse. But in those same years, ABC said, the new equipment was valued in Sumter County for property tax purposes at $425,000.
The report suggested that the president had overstated the cost of the equipment to obtain a larger investment tax credit from the federal government or had undervalued it when reporting it to local officials to reduce his property taxes.
White House officials, noting that Carter's federal income tax returns for those years had been audited and approved by the Internal Revenue Service, then requested the local property tax reappraisal.
White House press secretary Jody Powell said the undervaluation resulted from a number of factors. For 1975 taxes, he said, the warehouse supplied county officials with an extensive list of new equipment purchased that year, listing the cost of some of the items but omitting cost figures for others. In calculating the value of the warehousee's holdings, he said, country officials apparently added up only the cost figures supplied to them.
Powell said yesterday he assumed the cost figures had not been available for some of the equipment at the time the tax declaration was filed.
He said the undervaluation also occurred because the value of some construction work done at the warehouse was not originally included in the calculations and that, as an "oversight," Billy Carter had not reported to local officials that the warehouse owned a number of unlicensed vehicles.
At the time, Billy Carter was in charge of the family business, and his brother was campaigning full-time for the presidency. Powell said the president "accepts full responsibility as the major shareholder" in the warehouse partnership for the business's taxes.
White House officials said Carter has not yet paid the back taxes but will do so soon. However, because he will be able to deduce the additional property taxes from this year's federal income taxes, he will get more than half of the $1,445 back, leaving him a net cost of $745.
The Sumter County report listed more than $1 million in equipment purchased and improvements to real estate by the warehouse in 1975 and 1976. White House officials said these were paid for by a $1 million loan from the National Bank of Georgia, then controlled by former budget director Bert Lance, they said this contradicts a report in The New York Times earlier this week suggesting that about $300,000 from the loan had not been accounted for.
The documents released yesterday at the White House included a 16-page report on the reappraisal by the Sumter County Board of Tax Assessors and a letter from W. E. Stickland, the Georgia Commissioner of Revenue, reporting a similar reappraisal by state officials.
Carter's 62 percent interest in the warehouse partnership was put in a "blind trust" administered by his friend and adviser, Atlanta lawyer Charles Kirbo, when Carter took office as president.