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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Pay your bill

Taxes is for normal people

Property Tax Dispute Threatens Band of Polygamists

Published: April 21, 2006

HILDALE, Utah, April 19 — Thousands of polygamists are engaged in a highly unusual standoff here over property taxes that could ultimately cost them their houses or thrust them into a mainstream America they fear and despise.

A fence was recently put up around this house in Hildale, Utah. Some residents involved in the tax dispute have been putting up barriers.
George Grey for The New York Times

Bruce R. Wisan, center, spoke with Don Timpson, a member of the trust advisory board, at a meeting this week with residents of Hildale, Utah.

In one corner is a group of 8,000 or so adherents of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, an offshoot of the Mormon Church that had long paid the property taxes of its members, sometimes even rolling a wheelbarrow through meetings to collect the needed cash.

At the other corner is a stocky accountant from Salt Lake City, Bruce R. Wisan, who says he is determined to help the church members even if they do not want it.

The church hierarchy is in chaos. Its former leader is on the run, facing criminal charges of arranging sex between a minor and an adult in a polygamous marriage, leaving the old tax-collection system in shambles. Now the property taxes for hundreds of houses — around $1.3 million — are overdue and mounting.

The church's remaining leaders have told people living in the houses not to pay. Mr. Wisan has promised to make them do so. A state judge appointed him last year to oversee the land on which most church members live. A trust the church established generations ago controls the land.

Mr. Wisan says he has been frustrated at every step, including efforts to communicate with residents. Mass mailings to residents seeking tax payment have gone unanswered, and some were found strewn across the floor of the post office, unopened, Mr. Wisan said. His representatives sent to knock on doors here in town and in the twin border community of Colorado City, Ariz., have invariably encountered people not home. Some holdouts have even started building walls around their houses.

On Wednesday night, Mr. Wisan took the extraordinary step of convening a town hall meeting to wheedle, threaten and beg residents to break with tradition and pay their individual tax bills — and thus, in a very real way, enter the American mainstream.

If they refuse, he said, they risk losing their houses when the courts settle the issues of law and faith. He also threatened to evict them personally.

"It's a basic obligation," Mr. Wisan told the meeting of more than 40 people. "My position is that people have to pay to live on trust property."

This is creepy. I don't know why people find the HBO show Big Love cute. I think it's the darkest show on cable, making Six Feet Under look like a variety show. It's got the kind of dark undercurrents seen in movies like the Hills Have Eyes and Wolf Creek without the blood.

posted by Steve @ 12:01:00 AM

12:01:00 AM

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