Imagine the complexities

Friday, January 9, 2009

A number of city officials in a county south of Nashville decided several years ago that the trouble wasn't worth the benefit of having a take-home car from the municipality that could well-afford to permit inspectors, department chiefs and others to drive home in what private businessmen would call a company car.

They'd come to realize that driving home, to church and the grocery and even their son's football practice in the city vehicle really was a benefit that had value as viewed by the Internal Revenue Service. In-other-words, the so-called executive perk was part of their compensation package and they would have to keep up with the mileage so they'd know how much more they were being paid.

They had to pay income taxes on the value of having a drive home vehicle.

The tax law may well have been altered to accommodate police detectives who might be called out to investigate crime at any time, as one of our recent callers has stated, but it's going to be a complicated calculation this spring for income taxpayers with drive home cars, unless, of course, they're a bona fide top level exec with a tax accountant.

Consider the complexity. The price of gas went up to $4 a gallon this year and has dropped back down before New Year's Eve to about $1.34 locally.

Meanwhile, there's a renewed series of complaints about government officials driving so-called company cars as if they were their own. Part of the complaint is that the cars don't have any indication other than a government license plate that those vehicles are publicly owned.

There's the contention that those vehicles should bear the logo, seal, or other such emblem, light, or other such decoration to identify them for what they are.

How does that work if the driver is an undercover narcotics officer? Maybe that's the "Catch-22" clause for lawmen.

Such conflicts arise as there's confusion among members of the general public; you know, civilians, who don't recognize the difference between stripes, seals or departments. Those in the know recognize there are separate charters for city utilities, their municipalities and other local government agencies. Property taxpayers support the municipality. Utility rate payers support those services and state law requires utilities to be independent and self supporting.

At least that's what they've told me. Now, I've told you.