Douglas County Treasurer John Ewing told Nebraska Watchdog today he is looking at Rogert’s situation to see if any taxes are due.
Nebraska Watchdog first reported that Senator Kent Rogert has never paid the sales tax on his 1996 Baja 272, a 28 foot long, high performance boat with a 310 horsepower engine. An investigation by Nebraska Watchdog uncovered that Rogert operates the boat with a boat dealer registration number and has since he bought it several years ago. Boat dealers do not have to pay the sales tax on boats.
Two months ago Rogert told Nebraska Watchdog he dabbled in the boat business several years ago but added he is “…a real estate agent not a boat dealer.” On Monday Rogert sent an e-mail to Nebraska Watchdog insisting he was “absolutely” misquoted. According to Rogert he actually said, “I’m a real estate agent as well now.”
After receiving the e-mail Nebraska Watchdog tried to reach Rogert in order to ask him several follow up questions but Rogert has not responded.
On Monday, following Nebraska Watchdog’s exclusive investigation, the Lincoln Journal Star reported that Rogert said he does dabble in used boats. According to the newspaper, “Rogert said it may look like he was just trying to avoid paying sales tax.”
According to state and county officials the sales tax on a boat is paid the first time the boat is registered at the county treasurer’s office. But Ewing says boat dealers, unlike car dealers, do not have to provide any proof that they are legitimate dealers. Ewing says when someone registers a boat and says they are a dealer they are, “taken at their word” and the sales taxes are not collected.
Betty Johnson, the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles’ Administrator of Driver and Vehicle Records, tells Nebraska Watchdog that unlike car dealers who are licensed to sell cars, boat dealers are not licensed by the State of Nebraska.
Paul Davis, the owner and general manager of Omaha Marine Center, says very few people know they can just walk in to the treasurer’s office, claim to be a dealer and walk out without paying the sales tax. Davis says attempts to tighten the law have never been successful. Ewing told the Omaha World Herald today that he would support changes in the law to ensure that everyone pays a fair share of taxes.
The Journal Star also reported that Rogert “said the Watchdog Nebraska (sic) report contains errors, including when he bought the boat and its estimated potential price.” On Monday Rogert told the Journal Star he bought the boat in 2003. Two years ago Rogert told the Journal Star that, “this particular boat I got in 2001.”
Rogert told the World Herald that he uses the Baja monthly during the summer. In 2007 Rogert told the Journal Star the speedboat is “loud. It holds a lot of people and creates a lot of fun…I love my boat. That’s the thing I love the most.”
According to Ewing on December 5th, 2002 Rogert was given a boat dealer’s registration number: 019 AMT. But on Rogert’s Statement of Financial Interests, a document that many state employees including senators must file with the State of Nebraska, there is nothing to indicate that Rogert, who was elected in 2006, sells boats. In his e-mail Rogert said, the Statement of Financial Interests is only required for sources of income over $1,000 and “none of the years filing this statement have earned me that amount from this venture.” Rogert also wrote, “I bought and sold a boat just in the last year and have tried to sell the boat (the 1996 Baja) on many different occasions.”
According to the Journal Star, Rogert would not say how much he paid for the speedboat. Rogert has also refused to tell Nebraska Watchdog what the boat cost him. Boat dealers estimate Rogert’s 1996 Baja would have cost about $40,000 in 2002, leaving a sales tax bill of at least $3,000. When Nebraska Watchdog initially contacted Rogert and asked if he paid the sales tax Rogert said, “I don’t remember.”
Editor’s note: to see Nebraska Watchdog’s initial news report on this issue click here.
Reported by Joe Jordan, firstname.lastname@example.org