Sweetheart Tax loophole for St. Louis County country clubs

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by Chris Nagus / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on October 29, 2012 at 10:27 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 12 at 9:35 PM

ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV.com) -- It’s a sweetheart deal given to private country clubs in Missouri. A loophole in the law allows them to pay less in taxes: which means you pay more.

In St. Louis County, there are 16 private country clubs and an old court ruling gives them a tax advantage.

County Assessor Jake Zimmerman is fired up at the way these clubs are classified for tax purposes.

“The reality, the legislature needs to change the law because that’s unfair” said Zimmerman.

Instead of paying commercial taxes they pay based on the residential code.

“You get to pretend your commercial buildings, your restaurant, your clubhouse, your swimming pool, even if you charge admission, even if you make money off of them, you get to pretend those are really residential...you get to pretend your restaurant is a house and that’s not fair” said Zimmerman.

By Zimmerman’s estimation, St. Louis County is losing out on $794,430 in revenue each year, money that would support schools and fire districts. The Parkway school district, home to Bellerive, Meadowbrook, and Westwood country clubs, is losing $218,850 a year compared to what country clubs would be taxed if Zimmerman had his way.

School board president Beth Feldman says the district cut 8 million dollars from the budget last year and is looking for additional cuts this year.

A couple hundred grand wouldn’t solve the problem, but it would help, Feldman explained.

“It could be programs, it could be adding stuff to science labs, it could be a teacher here and there multiple teachers” said Feldman.

Some of these clubs are also classified as not-for-profit, but some of the employees are raking in big paychecks.

At St. Louis Country Club in Ladue, tax records reveal the golf pro’s compensation was $629,878 last year along with the general manager at $201,315 a year and the tennis pro made $203,211.

Zimmerman says the tax loophole allows St. Louis Country Club to save $66,368 a year.

“They get this not-for-profit status so even if they are running something that looks like a business the state still tells me I have to treat them differently and I don’t think that’s fair” said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman says the money saved by the private clubs is made up by other businesses, like public golf courses, and anyone who owns a home in St. Louis County.

News 4 called several of the country clubs on the list and either got a “no comment” or no call back.

For a breakdown of the differences between what clubs are assessed now as compared to how Zimmerman would want them assessed click here.

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