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Idaho lawmaker’s bankruptcy plan draws criticism

Federal prosecutors are asking a bankruptcy judge to reject an Idaho lawmaker’s bankruptcy proposal to pay just a small fraction of the half-million he owes in back taxes because they say it’s not feasible.

Rep. Phil Hart, a Republican from northern Idaho, has offered to pay $12,000 over five years to settle more than $600,000 in debts.

The Spokesman-Review (http://bit.ly/PYvkGL ) reports that U.S. Department of Justice attorney Adam Strait filed court documents opposing Hart’s plan, saying that it doesn’t include enough money to pay back the IRS. Strait also contends that the plan is based on Hart’s legislative salary, which will disappear at the end of this year because Hart lost in the GOP primary.

Hart contends that both state and federal income taxes are unconstitutional, and he stopped filing both types of tax returns in 1996 when he sued in hopes of getting the federal income tax declared unconstitutional. After he lost the lawsuit he began filing tax returns again, but authorities say he never fully paid up.

In court documents federal prosecutors also took issue with Hart’s refusal to answer numerous questions about his assets in bankruptcy court in July. Hart refused to answer questions about who owns the home where he lives in Athol, how long he lived there and who built it. He also refused to answer questions about the car that he drives. Court records show Hart was ordered to pay more than $22,000 for illegally cutting trees from state school endowment land in 1996 and using them in the construction of the log home where he lives. He also had a building permit for the home. Hart claimed that as a citizen, he had a right to take the logs for free, but he lost repeated court appeals.

In a separate lawsuit, the federal government is seeking to foreclose on Hart’s home to pay his IRS debt. The building is owned by a trust in his daughter’s name, though Hart still lives there. Federal authorities contend that the transfer of the home to the trust was a fraudulent transaction with a sham entity. That foreclosure lawsuit was placed on hold when Hart filed for bankruptcy.

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