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June 30th, 2004 The Nose | The Nose
 

What's a few million between friends?

     
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The Nose doesn't want to peer into the oral cavity of a donated equine.

Truly.

But since no one else will take a hard look at the donation of land that the Schnitzer family made earlier this month, it's up to the Schnoz to offer a bit of sobriety to the ceaseless toasting that has taken place.

Make no mistake: The Schnitzers, who run one of the larger scrap-metal businesses in America, have a long history of philanthropy. (And, yes, the Nose knows that this side of the Schnitzer family is different from the Schnitzers who gave us the Schnitzer hall downtown.)

But take a hard look at the nearly 20 acres just south of the Marquam Bridge that the Schnitzers gave to Oregon Health & Science University on June 15.

Public officials gushed, and the Northwest's largest paper became as giddy as a groupie at an Enrique Iglesias concert. "This is a remarkable bequest, valued at $35 million, and it's fair to say that it will benefit the entire state, perhaps even the nation," opined The Oregonian's opiners.

The Nose won't quibble that donating 20 riverfront acres is generous. The question is the value of the land.

The Schnitzers say the land is worth $35 million. That's important because, given that it is a charitable contribution, the clan of steel will be able to deduct that amount of money from their income--avoiding, depending on the tax rate they fall in, approximately $10 million to $15 million in taxes.

The Nose is all for tax avoidance.

But what the Schnoz finds interesting is that, according to property-tax records, the land is assessed at $8 million. According to those same records, the real market value (always higher than the assessed value) is about $14 million. And when a developer recently purchased some nearby property, he paid an amount that indicates that $14 million may be about right. Had the Schnitzers donated their land at its real market value, they would have saved only about $5 million in taxes.

The Nose has no doubt that there is an appraiser in town who will gladly value the land at $35 million.

But how is this any different from the time the Nose was filling out his taxes and declared that the charitable donation of his old Panasonic G100 toaster oven to St. Vincent de Paul was worth $1,744?

At the time, the Nose's ball-and-chain said, "Hey, Numnutz. You can't do that. It was a good toaster oven, but not that good."

"Who's gonna care?" the Nose feebly replied.

"How about all the people who have to make up for the taxes you don't pay?"

So here's the deal. If the Schnitzers agree that the land they are donating is worth less than $35 million, the Nose will amend last year's tax filing, reducing the value of the G100.

Failing that, the Nose would like someone to congratulate him for his "remarkable bequest" to the less fortunate.

A statue will be unnecessary.

 
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