What Goes Around Comes Around

7/1/2015
Ask anyone what makes them happy. Go ahead; see who's around and ask them. While we may not be able to guess everyone's exact answers, we can almost guarantee that not a single response will include anything close to "paying taxes. " Most of us just grumble and pay up. But millions of citizens from all walks of life express their unhappiness by choosing not to pay. The IRS currently has over 12 million accounts in collections, with state and local governments managing millions more. That's a lot of money not getting paid.

However, tax collectors are hardly powerless to collect those debts. They have the power to not only garnish someone's wages, but - even more frighteningly - to seize an individual's property in order to amass what they believe to be their fair share.

But, now, a Florida tax collector is taking aim at an even bigger target. Last month, Escambia County Tax Collector, Janet Holley, filed suit to seize the 200-foot-tall Skyview Ferris wheel near Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park.

The Ferris wheel features 42 climate-controlled gondolas, including a VIP car with leather seats and glass floors. And the Ferris wheel itself has enjoyed a scenic ride of its own! It originally opened in Paris, across from the famed Louvre museum. Then it moved to Bern, Switzerland, before crossing the Alps and the Atlantic for a year-long stop in Pensacola, Florida. Following its quick Floridian visit, the wheel made once last move to Atlanta, where it has been a popular tourist attraction since 2013.

Here's where taxes step aboard: When the wheel landed in Pensacola, it became subject to Escambia County’s property tax. The county assessed the wheel's value at $11.4 million, and followed up by sending a $237,000 bill to the ride's operator. That company, Expo 60 Ventures LLC, has since gone out of business and dissolved. However, Florida law lets the tax on tangible property follow the equipment, which makes the wheel itself subject to seizure.

The wheel's current operators are quick to defend Atlanta's newest attraction. "This is a vendetta by a public official who's up for re-election in Pensacola, Florida. Pensacola has always been angry that this wonderful icon left their city and came to Atlanta, " shared one spokesman. "Our only contention is that they're charging some ridiculous penalties and interest and things like that…and we're willing to pay…as soon as the court tells us that that's what we have to pay. " Additionally, the company has already shelled out $50,000 of good faith money to demonstrate their willingness to pay what they believe they rightfully owe.

Of course, the county doesn't really want to take possession of the Ferris wheel - not any more than the IRS really wanted a couple of parking spots in Boston. At the end of the day, all taxing agencies really want is their money.