Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh is suing Darden Restaurants, saying the company should pay more taxes on equipment inside its headquarters.
Singh is contesting an independent board’s decision to lower the taxable value of items such as furniture and computers in Darden’s main office on John Young Parkway.
Singh filed the lawsuit in Orange Circuit Court late last month, shortly after the Value Adjustment Board ruled his office assessed Darden’s equipment too high. Darden appealed Singh’s appraisal of $29 million, and the Value Adjustment Board lowered it to $20.5 million.
That saved Darden $144,000 on last year’s tangible property tax bill, which ended up at $347,000.
The board “was wrong – wrong to the tune of almost 30 percent,” Singh said.
He is asking a judge to overturn the board’s decision and award him court costs.
Property owners who disagree with appraisals can take their case to the Value Adjustment Board.
Singh said the decision to sue when the board overturns one of his office’s decisions is made on a case-by-case basis.
Darden had no comment, saying it would let the legal process play out.
Darden, the owner of chains such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster, had lost a similar appeal for its 2010 and 2011 assessments. It did not argue the value for 2012.
Darden has contended equipment depreciated more than the property appraiser took into account.
But Singh disagrees, saying, this is a state-of-the-art facility with state-of-the-art equipment. The equipment is only a few years old.”
The levy in question does not include taxes on the real estate itself, which last year were more than $1 million.
Darden used an analysis by Capital Tax Services to make its case. In its appeal, Darden accused Singh’s office of failing to comply with state appraisal guidelines and relying on an out-of-date depreciation schedule. Singh said in the lawsuit his office used professionally accepted appraisal factors and considered factors set out in state law.
Darden has been trying to cut costs as it struggles with declining profit and sales. It is also fighting off hedge funds that want a dramatic breakup of the company and a divestiture of its real estate.
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