Agency Probes Jore Corp. Tax Questions

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The Montana Department of Revenue is looking into a claim by Lake County manufacturer Jore Corp. that it has overpaid property taxes, perhaps by $500,000, Revenue Director Dan Bucks confirmed.

Jore, which makes power-tool accessories, recently contacted the department with concern the company has been overpaying taxes since 2004. At issue is whether Department of Revenue staff properly applied to Jore property a 2004 tax abatement on the books in Lake County, Bucks said.

Jore is “raising questions about whether they should now receive a refund of taxes and other compensation,” Bucks said last week in a written response to a press query. Calls seeking comment Tuesday from Jore President Mick Cheff at the company offices in Ronan were not returned immediately.

Jore did not appeal its taxes in 2004 nor in any of the succeeding four years, Bucks said.

“As matters stand now, there appear to be disputed issues of fact and law that need to be properly resolved,” he said. “These matters could have been more easily resolved in 2004 in the normal property assessment review and appeals process. Resolving these questions five years later without the benefit of the standard appeals process is challenging.”

Bucks said Lake County has questioned whether the tax abatement applies in the manner Jore suggests. But County Commission Chairman Paddy Trusler said Tuesday that “we are not arguing how the abatement should have been applied.”

Trusler said that “the state dropped the ball in not implementing the (tax) incentive,” which was established as a way to encourage business expansion.

“The amount of overpayment is what’s in question, and how it’s going to be paid back,” Trusler said. Most of the property-tax money Lake County receives goes to public schools, he added.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Bucks said the Department of Revenue is working on a process for handling the Jore matter.

Representatives of Jore, the state and the county have met at least twice, reported KERR-AM of Polson.

Founded in 1990, privately held Jore manufactures hand tools and industrial-quality drilling and driving tools, as well as power-tool accessories, according to the company’s Web site. It says manufacturing, assembly, packaging, warehousing and distribution are in three buildings totaling nearly 300,000 square feet. Jore uses private labels in selling to power-tool retailers and manufacturers. The company’s products also are sold under the Stanley brand.

The number of people employed by Jore is confidential, but the company is in a “size class” for employers providing 100 to 249 jobs, said Casey Kyler-West of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.

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