Los Angeles County property tax assessors are attempting to go where no taxing authority has gone before - into outer space. The taxing agency wants to apply property tax rules to satellites owned by California-based Hughes Electronics. The satellites are located in a fixed position 22,300 miles over the equator. Once their use is exhausted they will not return to California but will be deposited in a waste area in space.
Rick Auerbach, Los Angeles County Assessor, has argued that Los Angeles County is eligible to tax the satellites because the satellites are owned by a California company and no other taxing authority is imposing a tax on the property.
Meanwhile, the California State Board of Equalization has approved a new rule that protects any artificial satellite that is permanently located in outer space from being subjected to property tax in California. Mr. Auerbach has indicated he will abide by the Board's vote for now, but he plans to study the legal aspects of the issue and may well take the matter to court. California stands to gain several million dollars in taxes should Mr. Auerbach have his way.
George Jamison, a spokesman for Hughes, has argued that the property tax assessment is inappropriate as California provides no protection or any other benefits for the property.