The Nevada Tax Commission voted Friday to confirm that a new tax rate collected from gold mining companies would be limited to mid-2021 and onward — the period after legislators voted to impose the tax — rather than the full calendar year 2021.
During the public comment session, progressive advocates, including Christine Saunders, policy director at Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, expressed disappointment that the commission made changes upon the Nevada Mining Association’s request from a meeting in January. Saunders said the commission should “preserve what was voted on with bipartisan support and full view of the public, rather than to manipulate the language in the bill in the regulatory process.”
“We urge you to revert back to the initial draft presented by the tax department without the amendments,” said Saunders, whose organization has been critical of mining operations, alleging that they are not paying enough taxes.
Chris Daly, a lobbyist with the Nevada State Education Association teachers union, agreed with Saunders by stating that the industry should support the earlier start date and fund the public schools that are facing an unprecedented crisis.
The confusion and debate over when the tax collection would start stemmed from differences in interpretations of AB495, a bill lawmakers passed last year as part of a compromise to send more money to education and respond to calls to raise taxes on the mining industry. The tax is projected to raise approximately $83.3 million in the 2022 fiscal year and $81 million in the 2023 fiscal year.
One section of the bill mentions retroactivity, while another section mentions the statute is only effective as of July 1.
Mining association president Tyre Gray argued that for a bill to be applied retroactively, clear legislative intent must be expressed in the bill and he did not believe that was the case for AB495.
“I have not found any Nevada cases that have upheld the retroactive application of a new tax,” he said.
Tax Commissioner Sharon Byram agreed with Gray and said it has been more than 15 days since the vote took place, and there is a due process concern that the taxpayer was not given notice ahead of time.
“I find it unbelievable that our unanimous decision is being questioned when we have the full support of the plain language and of the Nevada Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter directly to this situation,” she said.
Byram disclosed that she is a member of the Nevada Mining Association and has been for most of the last 30 years, but that membership in the association did not influence her.
In light of the new commentary, the Tax Commission took a vote to see if commissioners have changed their stances since their previous meeting on Jan. 24. Except for Commission Chairman James Devolld and Commissioner Francine Lipman, the rest of the commissioners voted to confirm that the results from the prior meeting stand.
With the regulatory language established, the Department of Taxation will expedite the process of delivering forms and instructions so mining businesses can pay by April 1.