FLDS polygamists $2.1 million behind on property taxes

ABC 4 News, Utah/June 14, 2011

Hildale, Utah - According to information provided by the court-appointed administrator of the United Effort Plan (UEP) trust, $2,097,612 in delinquent property taxes are owed on land in Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona. Many of the people have not paid property taxes since 2007.

On the Utah side, 42 of 44 parcels of land are delinquent. The back taxes owed to Washington County alone totals $528,509.

That means a half million dollars less in county coffers for schools, library, law enforcement and other county functions. Without that money, leaders have to either cut budgets or raise taxes. Everyone in Washington County is effected by FLDS refusing to pay property taxes.

No one within the the FLDS dominated communities will say, but it's generally believed the refusal to pay property taxes is a protest against state control of the UEP Trust.

That trust owns most of the land in the twin communities along the Utah-Arizona border. In 2005, A Utah judge seized control of the trust after finding that it had been "abandoned" by the sole trustee, Warren Jeffs. (At the time, Jeffs was fugitive from justice who would eventually end up on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List.)

Still, the FLDS tax protest could backfire.

"The end result - what's going to happen to the trust property - it's going to be sold for taxes," said Val Oveson. Oveson is a former IRS executive, Utah State Auditor and Chairman of the State Tax Commission. He now helps manage the UEP Trust.

Oveson said the process has already begun in Arizona. Over the last three years, private investors have been buying tax liens on the delinquent properties -- essentially paying the property taxes. Those investors can sue to take over delinquent properties.

"Individuals living in those homes could find themselves with a new landlord who could say, 'Here's the rent I expect' and will have all the rights to evict if they don't pay the rent or maintain the property," Oveson said.

Tax lien sales are not allowed under Utah law, but many of the parcels are facing a sheriff's auction within two years unless the back taxes and penalties are paid.

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