Opinion: Chehalis resort tax assessment dispute
"Thurston County Assessor Patricia Costello asked me in January for the Department's opinion on the taxation of Great Wolf Lodge.

The department's property tax division worked to establish the facts and did an extensive review of the case law to fully understand the applicable legal issues. At the end of the review, the property tax division concluded that based on federal law and the facts presented, tax was not due.

The assessor chose to not follow the department's opinion. The tribe has sued in federal court. The outcome will ultimately be based upon interpretation of federal Indian law, an area of subject matter jurisdiction for federal courts. I welcome the court's guidance.

I want to address allegations about Revenue's involvement.

The Olympian suggests we changed our position midcourse due to pressure. The truth is we provided a midpoint analysis to the tribe based on the information we had at the time. The property tax division advised the tribe that more information was needed based on the framework set out in federal law, and without answers and documentation the property would be viewed as taxable.

This is the standard tax administration approach. The burden is on the taxpayer to establish they are exempt from tax.

The tribe complied with this request, and after further review the property tax division concluded the property was not taxable."

Get the Story:
Washington Department of Revenue Director Cindi Holmstrom: State agency justified in Great Wolf tax decision (The Olympian 11/15)

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