Sunday: EMSA let contractor avoid paying fuel taxes, records show
BY ZIVA BRANSTETTER World Enterprise Editor
Saturday, January 26, 2013
1/26/13 at 3:29 PM
EMSA allowed its contractor, a Texas-based paramedic provider, to receive more than $7 million worth of fuel and other items at EMSA’s tax-free rate, an apparent violation of state law and the company’s contract, a Tulsa World investigation has found.
EMSA allowed the company, Paramedics Plus, to avoid paying taxes on at least $7.1 million in purchases statewide since 2009, records show. Of that total, about $6.3 million went to buy fuel for ambulances, records show.
Under the current contract with EMSA, signed in 2008, Paramedics Plus is required to “supply, at the contractor’s own cost, all fuel, oil, and routine maintenance” for the ambulances, records show. State taxes add 17 cents per gallon of fuel, a cost EMSA does not have to pay.
It’s unclear how much Paramedics Plus would have paid in taxes for the fuel. At Oklahoma’s current average cost per gallon, the company would have paid about $300,000 in gas taxes over the period — Jan. 1, 2009, through June 30, 2012, a World analysis shows. That money would have gone to fund roads, bridges and other state needs.
EMSA’s chief financial officer told state auditors that the practice was “good business sense” for EMSA and that the company “relies on EMSA for purchases” because it lacks a local checking account.
Paula Ross, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Tax Commission, said that while she cannot comment specifically on whether EMSA violated state law, “public trusts cannot pass that (tax) exemption on” to private companies with which they contract.
Ross said she could not say whether the Tax Commission would pursue action against Paramedics Plus.
In general, the Tax Commission “always will follow up on that … to make sure that the correct tax was taken,” Ross said.
An EMSA spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment about the practice.
Read more in Sunday's World.
An EMSA ambulance transports a patient near 5th Place and Sheridan Road last year.