Panel Reviews Tax Refund Request

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A California-based utility's multimillion-dollar tax refund request that dates back several years will get a fresh review next week by the Nevada Tax Commission.

The refund, which started out at $40 million and now is worth about $70 million with interest, is being sought by Southern California Edison based on the operation of its now-closed Mohave Generating Station near Laughlin.

The public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in Las Vegas. A final vote by the commission might not come until December.

The Tax Commission in 2005 voted in private to award the sales and use tax refund to the company. But the vote prompted a legal battle over whether the panel had to follow the requirements of the state open meetings law.

The Nevada Supreme Court earlier this year ruled the commission
did violate the law and rendered the refund vote void, requiring a new hearing.

Thom Sheets, chairman of the commission, said the panel on Tuesday will consider arguments by the staff of the state Taxation Department, the utility and two local governments, Henderson and Clark County, that have joined in the matter.

The utility can file a legal brief in October if it chooses to do so, which would delay a commission vote until December, Sheets said. If no reply brief is sought, the commission could vote on the refund Tuesday.

The open meetings law dispute began when the attorney general's office sued the commission over the closed-door deliberations and vote.

A Carson City district judge ruled in October 2006 that the commission could meet in closed session to consider taxpayer appeals because of a separate state law providing for confidentiality of proprietary information.

The Tax Commission then voted a second time to award the refund, even though the open meetings law case was on appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court then reversed the lower court in its unanimous decision, voiding the vote to approve the refund.

The court said the Tax Commission had the right under Nevada law to close its meetings involving Edison, but only to receive confidential evidence. But evaluating evidence that was not confidential, along with its deliberations and vote, were required to be done in open session, the court said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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