PITTSBURG — Former Pittsburg resident and pizza magnate O. Gene Bicknell has filed suit against the State of Kansas in his long-running tax dispute with the state.
Bicknell has been fighting the state since the Kansas Department of Revenue audited the taxes he paid from 2005 to 2008 and found that he owed $42.5 million based on his 2006 sale of NPC International — America’s largest holder of Pizza Hut franchises with hundreds of restaurants. With interest, Bicknell is demanding the return of $48.4 million.
The state has maintained that Bicknell’s primary residence was Kansas while he maintains he was resident in Florida.
On Wednesday, Bicknell, through his attorney, filed a petition for judicial review of the matter in Crawford County District Court. No hearing date has yet been set.
The amount the Kansas Department of Revenue seeks to keep from Bicknell now more than $48 million stems from income he received as part of his 2006 sale of NPC International, America’s largest holder of Pizza Hut and Wendy’s franchises with hundreds of restaurants.
According to the Topeka Capital-Journal Bicknell agreed to pay the $48 million in 2014 although his case was under litigation “as a deposit, to be returned to the Bicknells upon successful appeal,” his attorneys said in a court filing earlier this year.
According to the Capital-Journal, the money was instead placed in the state general fund.
“This is a massive, improper and egregious overreach by the State of Kansas and the Department of Revenue …,” Bicknell said in a release.
After the Kansas Supreme Court refused to hear the state’s appeal overturning the judgement against Bicknell and remanding it to the State Board of Tax Appeals for reconsideration, he demanded the state return the money. However in a summary decision issued on Aug. 7 of this year the board again said Bicknell had not proven that he had established residency in the State of Florida during the years in question.
The filing maintains that Bicknell since at least 2003 has maintained a residence in Florida, has bank accounts there, is registered to vote there and has a Florida driver’s license.
Bicknell said in the release that, among the reasons the state maintains he is still a resident, are that he still has property in Kansas, and allows his grandchildren to use the swingset and pool at his former home, has donated to a local church, visits a business he owns in Missouri and allows a farm cat named “Checkers” to continue to live at the property.
“Now, you get a sense of the nonsensical and illogical State revenue-generation strategy that we’ve been dealing with for a decade,” he said in the release. “The filing of our petition will be the first time in this 10-year nightmare in which an actual court of law will hear the facts of our case. Our petition exposes the 'secret non-resident program' that the state enacted to aggressively target non-residents, and particularly those who are retired, in pursuit of the collection of income taxes.”
It is likely, that should Bicknell prevail in district court, the Department of Revenue will appeal the decision.
KDOR Public Information Director Rachel Whitton declined to comment saying the department does not discuss pending litigation.
Attempts to reach Bicknell for additional comment were unsuccessful.
— Patrick Richardson is the managing editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @PittEditor.