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Mohave County won’t forgive $10K in overdue taxes for Havasu church

December 7, 2018

Many people go to church for forgiveness, but this month the church went to the Mohave County Board of Supervisors for the same.

Inspire the Church Inc. of Lake Havasu City owes almost $10,000 in taxes from 2016 and 2017. On Monday, the Mohave County Board of Supervisors considered a request by the church to forgive those unpaid taxes. While most religious and nonprofit organizations are exempt from taxation, they are still required to file for such an exemption. According to the Mohave County Attorney’s Office, Inspire the Church filed for no such exemption until this year.

“The matter has been researched exhaustively at this point,” said attorney Lenore Knudtson. “The church took the title to the property in 2015, but didn’t exercise its option to file for tax-exempt status until 2018. This resulted in an accrual of taxes, delinquent taxes and the sale of a lien on those delinquent taxes to two separate private investors.”

Taxes on the property, which is located at 2139 Swanson Ave., were paid by investors under their lien agreements. With thousands of dollars tied up in the property, the county would not be able to legally forgive the church’s debt without absorbing the cost.

“The owners failed to avail themselves of a statutory remedy in a timely manner,” Knudtson said. “If we forgive their debt, the county would be required to pay the debt to those investors with interest.”

According to Knudtson, Inspire the Church Pastor Tim Giles can potentially redeem those tax liens himself in order to retain control of the property.

Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson is still working with county attorneys to find a way to help the organization. Under state statute, retroactive tax forgiveness applies to taxes already paid, which would be reimbursed to property owners. No such tax was paid by Inspire the Church in 2016 or 2017.

“Is this just a matter of semantics?” Johnson asked. “The way I understand it, if they pay their taxes, we can give that money back. If they don’t pay, we can’t forgive it … I think it’s confusing. I always thought laws were made for the simple man, but it’s confusing to me. But if someone already bought the lien on this property, it’s out of our hands.”

Giles was disappointed with the Board of Supervisors’ decision. As pastor over the organization for eight years, he has improved and controlled the Swanson Avenue property since he acquired it.

“I found this old building in town … the previous owners themselves were three years behind on their taxes,” Giles said. “The building was infested with termites, run-down and dilapidated. I made a deal with the owner, and took a personal loan to pay for it. I restored the building and paid all of the back taxes on it.”

According to Giles, he’s been met with resistance from Mohave County officials at every step in filing for tax-exemption.

“This year they approved our property for tax-exemption,” Giles said. “The law says once that’s approved, I can petition the county board of supervisors to strike back taxes. Now Buster Johnson says they can’t – the county can only pay those taxes back. That leaves a small nonprofit in Havasu, which is investing in the community, having to empty its savings to stay afloat. It’s heart-wrenching to see the government do this.”

According to Inspire the Church’s website, the organization began with a group of three in Giles’ living room, but has since seen exponential growth since the church opened its Swanson Avenue building. Giles says he will spend whatever it takes to keep Inspire the Church open.

“We have to go on,” Giles said. “If I don’t pay, they can foreclose on the property. We just want to do good for our people and our community. I hate to ask the community, who might not know us, to donate. It makes me mad at the county … it’s heartbreaking.”

According to Giles, people can help by contacting the Mohave County Board of Supervisors in support of the church. “They’re the ones with the power,” Giles said.

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