Nathan Deal says he wants to resolve Copart's $74m tax dispute

Gov. Nathan Deal wants an independent jurist to resolve the state's ongoing tax dispute with the Texas-based firm that bought his salvage yard firm.

Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said over the weekend that the governor has instructed the Department of Revenue to wring from Copart "every cent it owes in Georgia taxes." But he said the governor hoped it would be resolved by an outside judge, rather than the state tax agency, so he can't be accused of tinkering with the outcome.

"The governor assumes at this juncture of the process the case will go before an administrative law judge, which means it wouldn't be decided by an executive agency or by a Deal appointee," said Robinson. "This further ensures objectivity and fairness for all parties while bolstering public trust that every taxpayers gets treated equally under the law."

The state is locked in a dispute with Copart over as much as $74 million in back taxes - a dispute that became public days after the governor sold a salvage yard he co-owned to the company. The sale was last July and the company has repeatedly declined to comment.

But questions about the sale resurfaced again last week amid a broader debate between Deal and Democrat Jason Carter over how vigorously the state should pursue tax cheats. Carter's campaign and its allies accuse the governor of cashing Copart's checks for himself while ignoring the firm's tax dispute.

“He pockets $10,000 every month from a major tax cheat,” said Carter spokesman Bryan Thomas. “Why would he want to go after them?”

(We should note, again, that Copart is declining to comment.)

Robinson accused Carter's campaign and its allies of latching on to a "phony" issue to try to gain traction.

"Jason Carter and left-wing interest groups want to talk about anything that doesn't involve a legitimate policy debate or Gov. Deal's record of success," he said.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.