Tax Day is just over a week away, and for 14 West Virginians, the joy of winning luxury vans in the ‘Do It For Babydog’ contest is turning into dismay as they have to declare the purchase price of the vehicles as taxable. income on their federal and state tax returns.
Some winners were shocked by the stickers recently when the governor’s office sent out IRS 1099-Misc forms, forms used to report raffle prizes as income.
To take Grace Fowler of Nettie, winner of a 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 that the governor’s office purchased from Yes Chevrolet in Hurricane on July 9 for a total price of $85,162.
It is to the dismay of Denis Akkers, Fowler’s boyfriend. Akers said the truck Fowler received is not the high-end luxury pickup claimed by the promotion.
He said his Silverado is a Custom Trail Boss, which is not the base model Silverado but also not the high-end High Country version. He noted that the new 2021 Silverado Custom Trail Boss models sell for between $47,000 and $52,000.
Akers said nothing about its so-called luxury truck. It has no leather seats, no sunroof, not even a bed liner.
He said Fowler considered selling the truck shortly after winning it, but after visiting several dealerships, the best offer she received was $41,000.
(Akers said that when Governor Jim Justice announced Fowler as the winner of the sweepstakes on July 14, she posed for photos in a fully loaded high-end Dodge Ram Bighorn, a claim confirmed by a press release and publicity photos from the governor’s office. Akers said Justice told Fowler his truck would be identical, but with a white exterior instead of black. This may be the biggest bait and switch since Clark Griswold stuck with the Wagon Queen Family Truckster.)
The dealership upgraded Fowler’s Silverado by adding a lift kit, oversized tires and steps, additions that Akers said increased the truck’s value by $28,000.
He said he contacted both the governor’s office and the dealership to try to get a detailed list of add-on costs, but got no cooperation from either. other. Akers contacted me to see if the truck invoice I obtained through a FOIA request last year detailed these charges. He does not have.
Akers said he spoke with other truck winners who are in the same situation.
“The winners are just going to pay an unfair amount of taxes because they (the governor’s office) overpaid for these vehicles,” he said.
Unfortunately, for income tax purposes, Akers said, winners must report the purchase price shown on Form 1099-MISC — not the fair market value — of the trucks as income.
Admittedly, the governor’s office was trying to buy more than a dozen luxury pickup trucks at the height of an extreme seller’s market, when pandemic-related production issues left many dealerships with nearly empty lots and low inventory.
As I noted, the proper way for the governor’s office to go about this would have been to issue a request for bids for all 14 trucks through the state’s procurement division.
This process, which likely would have saved money for both taxpayers and truck winners, would have taken weeks, if not months, and the judiciary obviously didn’t want to wait that long for the opportunity to race around the state playing host of the game show featuring multiple truck giveaway photo ops.
Instead, aides to the governor visited nine dealerships across the state with P-Cards in hand, on a million-plus shopping spree, paying between $55,122 and $91 $797 each for contest trucks (at an average cost of $77,475).
In my semi-retirement, I have neither the time nor the inclination to delve into a deeper investigation into the raffle trucks and the avoidable financial burdens imposed on winners, but I trust an intrepid journalist to the follow-up.
Since federal pandemic relief funds were used to purchase the trucks, perhaps the federal government could have an interest.
Sorry to have to say goodbye and good luck to Chuck Rieckwho, like so many other West Virginia seniors, is leaving the state to be closer to family.
For many years, Riecks led Friends of the Cardinal, an informally organized group of railroad fans who promoted the maintenance and improvement of service on Amtrak’s Cardinal route, which serves 11 states, including eight station stops in south-central West Virginia.
Riecks and Bill Bartley frequently held exhibits at rail shows throughout the region to promote Cardinal ridership, and he worked with Amtrak officials to raise awareness of passenger train service.
In 2017, Riecks was instrumental in passing legislation calling for the extension of tri-weekly cardinal service to daily service.
The legislation directs the then Commissioner and now Secretary of Tourism to work with Amtrak and other states and municipalities served by Cardinal to improve the quality and frequency of Cardinal service, with the ultimate goal of operating the train according to a daily schedule. The bill passed in the House 95-5 and in the Senate 32-1.
With the influx of visitors to New River Gorge National Park, perhaps now is the time to dust off that legislation and put it to work, given that the Cardinal makes three stops at the gates of the park, as well as a stop in the park at Thurmond.
While chairing his last Friends of the Cardinal meeting recently, Riecks was not optimistic about the Cardinal’s future, especially with host railroad CSX removing the double-track mainline for much of the train’s route at through West Virginia.
This removal, driven by projections of long-term declines in coal shipments, will likely cause delays for the Cardinal due to freight traffic and disabled freight trains in the stretch through West Virginia. You can bypass a disabled freight with a double track mainline, but you can only wait for it on a single track.
Good luck as you pursue the next chapter of your life, Chuck and Alice.
Finally, speaking of trucks, with the help of a few detective readers, we were able to determine the identities of the two delegates who had vehicles with foreign license plates in the Capitol’s legislative parking lots during the session. (In my Feb. 5 Statehouse Beat column, I noted that readers spotted a GMC pickup with Indiana plates and a GMC Yukon with Virginia plates in assigned delegate parking spots.)
Driver of GMC pickup with Indiana plates is Delegate Roger ConleyR-Wood.
He told me the van belonged to his employer, JAG Mobile Solutions of Howe, Ind.
The company, which has a branch in Mineral Wells, manufactures mobile toilet trailers. (Rocket ride!)
“Honestly, I never thought about it,” Conley said of driving a vehicle with out-of-state license plates to the Capitol. “It’s not uncommon for someone to drive a company vehicle.”
Conley said he had permission from the company for personal use of the van.
(Whether vehicles assigned to a West Virginia branch of an out-of-state company should have West Virginia plates is a matter I will leave to the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Taxation .)
Meanwhile, the GMC Yukon with Virginia plates is owned by Delegate Mike Honaker, R-Greenbrier. (A savvy reader notes that shortly after the initial out-of-state plates article, the Yukon plate was replaced by the West Virginia vanity plate, “IRN MIKE”, pointing out that Honaker is one of two Mikes in the House. The other Mike, Delegate Mike PushkinD-Kanawha, has a legislative plate on his car.)
Honaker did not respond to my request for comment.